Khalifa joined the Roots & Shoots National Youth Leadership Council in 2007. But her involvement began much earlier when she was inspired by a video shown in a school classroom of Dr. Jane Goodall doing research in Tanzania. “I think it was the third grade,” she says. “I was like, ‘Wow, I want to be like her.’”
Much of Khalifa’s commitment and perseverance was motivated by what she OBSERVED growing up “without having much” in an inner-city neighborhood of Boston. She wanted a better life, to do more for herself and for the kids who would come up after her.
That drive led her to participate in Roots & Shoots and several other youth programs, which “opened my eyes to what’s on the other side of poverty,” she says. One program took her to California, where she went hiking for the first time. “I remember on the hiking trip making it up to the top of the mountain—something I didn’t think I would be able to do because I’d never done it before—and to me that’s kind of metaphorically the other side, making it to the top,” she says.
That experience “planted the seed within me to keep trekking up this mountain,” she says: “be resilient, don’t give up.”