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Amel Ali knows what it’s like to feel isolated from her peers and even her own family. As CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank’s new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) outreach specialist for mobile crisis, she hopes her background and first-hand experience with mental health issues will comfort those in need. “My job is to help connect the most underserved and underutilized communities with the services that we offer and figure out ways that we can help people who don’t know about our services be more informed,” she said. “We want them to have that information because they might be worried that if they speak a different language or come from a different place, that they wouldn’t be able to receive help.” That mission is vital to her as an immigrant. Her family moved to Iowa from Sudan in July 2000 when she was five years old. After protesting against former Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir, her parents were granted political asylum. Although she was relatively young when she immigrated, there were still barriers to overcome, especially as her family was introduced to a new culture and customs. “Growing up here as a daughter of a first-generation immigrant was hard. I didn’t feel really connected to my parents, especially through that hormonal phase when all the weird things are happening, and you just don’t know how to talk about it,” she explained. “There’s another layer when you’re an immigrant that I think sometimes people forget. It’s way more awkward because you have all of these things like dating and prom and dances and sports. That’s not a thing in Sudan, where I’m from, so I think a lot of my mental health struggles came from identity crises.” She was proactive about seeking help as an adolescent, initially from her family medicine physician. “We went through the whole thing, and I eventually got a therapist and a psychiatrist. I was treated with such dignity and respect,” she said. “That was eight years ago, so I’m in a much better headspace now. I know that’s not the case for everyone that looks like me or that presents like me.” Although many of her friends have jokingly asked her why she has remained in Iowa City instead of becoming a travel nurse or exploring other parts of the country and world, she replies with a Girl Scout-like approach. “I can’t leave Iowa City worse than I found it, and I need to leave it better than I found it,” she said. “A big thing for me in making it better is improving access to mental health, especially for people who look like me and for people who have similar backgrounds to me.”