Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Zainab Khan Is Helping To Change Our World

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Prioritize Self-Care: Balancing passion and self-care is crucial. There were times when I was so immersed in content creation that I neglected my well-being. Burnout followed, impacting both creativity and productivity. Learning to prioritize self-care, taking breaks, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance became essential for sustained success.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zainab Khan

Running Studimation (an educational YouTube channel) for over 3 years, Zainab Khan, a student herself, continues to inspire the younger generation and give them a food for thought. To date, there are videos on 8 different courses, totaling to over 900k+ views and 4k+ subscribers. Notably, these courses have been utilized by the California Adult Education Department. A year after its creation, the channel also began a series of episodes called Book Week, where every year, on the week following World Book Day (April 21), authors from around the world gather to share insights and answer questions from students. Hosted by Zainab herself, the series has featured some of the most renowned authors, such as Jackie French and Wendy Orr from Australia. Additionally, Zainab is a host of The Zainab Khan Podcast, where people from variety of fields talk about their experiences featuring diverse professionals like GRAMMY Award winners Kitt Wakeley and Falu Shah. Zainab’s passion for public speaking began with debate practices at her school, propelling her into active participation in debate competitions. This enthusiasm led to a string of victories, garnering accolades and trophies. As her proficiency grew, she ventured into representing The International Singer Songwriters Association (ISSA) — an organization in Atlanta, Georgia whose mission is to encourage aspiring and professional singers and songwriters across various music genres on a global scale — In 2023, her outstanding efforts were acknowledged with the Best International Representative of the Year from ISSA, a recognition shared with her mom. The accolade was achieved amidst competition from 36 participating countries.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

First off, thank you so much for interviewing me! Growing up, my household was a dynamic blend of creativity and inspiration, thanks to my dad’s roles as a guitarist and English language teacher. A distinctive aspect of my household is the firm belief instilled by my parents that sky is not the limit. This belief became my guiding light, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and fueled the creation of Studimation. Today, I stand as a testament to the transformative power of creativity, resilience, and unwavering support.

You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

I, being a student myself created Studimation, (an educational YouTube channel) during the pandemic, providing educational content during challenging times. I aimed to make learning engaging and accessible, with a focus on diverse subjects. Additionally, initiatives like Book Week series bring renowned authors to students, fostering a love for literature. Recently the creation of The Zainab Khan Podcast extends my impact, bringing insights from various fields to our audience. Ultimately, my goal is to empower individuals, leveraging creativity, education, and technology to make a lasting social impact.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

After finishing my online classes during the Covid-19 pandemic, I came across an ad for animation software. Intrigued, I started playing around with it and decided to create a video about the science topic I was studying for my test the next day. When I showed it to my parents, they were so impressed that they suggested to add narration and to share it on YouTube. Not only did it help me study better, but when I shared the video with my classmates, they found it super useful too. After witnessing the positive impact on my friends’ grades and receiving their heartfelt messages, I became dedicated to making more videos. I wanted to ensure I covered topics they found helpful and even took requests. As months passed and I continued uploading, something incredible happened — people from around the world started watching. It was both surprising and gratifying to see my videos resonate with a global audience, and the supportive comments kept pouring in. I understand that everyone learns differently, so I made sure to include visual, audio, and written elements in my videos. It’s incredibly fulfilling to know that my videos not only help people my age but also adults, including those in the California Adult Education Program. Reading comments from learners of all ages brightens my day, and I love covering topics that people request!

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

Absolutely, the “Aha Moment” for me was during the Covid-induced shift to online classes. Feeling the monotony and realizing the disconnect many students experienced, including myself, I recognized the need for a change. The final trigger was witnessing my friends and classmates struggling with online learning, and that’s when I decided to step up. I saw a gap, a void that needed filling, and I believed I could contribute something valuable. The desire to make a meaningful impact on the learning experience during such challenging times became the catalyst for creating Studimation. It was a moment of clarity, recognizing that I could turn an idea into a reality to benefit not just myself but an entire community of learners.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

In my view, there’s no need for a specific playbook when starting an organization; it’s about taking the plunge. Even with a deep passion for changing learning dynamics, I didn’t meticulously plan Studimation, I just dived straight into it and improved it as time went on. Sure, having supportive parents, mentors, and friends was an advantage, but I’d say, if you lack that, just dive in anyway. Waiting for the perfect conditions is a waste of time. Starting is the crux — feedback and continuous improvement follow. In the business world, it’s all about starting with an idea and refining it as you go. So, instead of delving into extensive guides, I just took that first step and embraced the ongoing journey of improvement.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Certainly! One of the most fascinating moments occurred about a month into creating Studimation. One day, I overslept and missed all my online classes. Unbeknownst to me, in my English class, the teacher decided to teach descriptive writing and played one of my videos. While my friends knew it was my work, the teacher had no idea. During the online class, a friend revealed that it was my video, leaving the teacher shocked and in awe. After the class ended, my friend called me and shared the story, and I was so touched by it. Later, when we returned to in-person classes post-COVID, my English teacher met me and encouraged me. She wrote a heartfelt message, shared it with other teachers, and then, many teachers in my school started incorporating my videos into their lessons. It was incredibly emotional and heartwarming to see my creations being used in my own school by my own teachers to teach my classmates.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In the early days of creating Studimation, I once accidentally left a blooper in the final video. It was a lighthearted moment of me stumbling over my words, and instead of editing it out, I decided to keep it for a good laugh. Surprisingly, the audience loved it! The mistake turned into a memorable and funny addition that actually increased engagement. The lesson learned was that authenticity and a touch of humor can connect with the audience. While perfection is often sought, showing a bit of the human side, even in mistakes, can create a more relatable and enjoyable learning experience. It reinforced the idea that imperfections can be endearing and, in some cases, enhance the overall impact of the content.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Absolutely, my dad’s journey as a self-taught guitarist in an era without internet access truly impacted me. During a time where resources weren’t as readily available, his determination and passion for music drove him to teach himself the guitar. This aspect of his story resonated deeply with me because it highlighted the power of self-directed learning and the pursuit of one’s passion against all odds. He as a self-taught guitarist, rising to perform at prestigious venues like the Royal Albert Hall, served as a constant source of inspiration, emphasizing the importance of perseverance in the pursuit of one’s goals.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Another remarkable moment was when the California Adult Education Department discovered one of my videos. They were particularly impressed with its pitch, sound, and the overall pace, considering it one of the best. They reached out to me, expressing interest in featuring it in their program. Without hesitation, I agreed, and the video became part of the California Adult Education Program, helping adults for free. Witnessing my content making a positive impact on adults, not just students, filled me with immense pride. It highlighted the broader reach and influence of Studimation, showing that educational content can transcend age groups and truly benefit learners across different stages of life.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

To address the root of the educational challenges I’m tackling through Studimation, the community, society, and politicians can:

  • Support Accessible Education Initiatives: This includes providing resources and technology to underserved communities, ensuring that every student has an equal opportunity to learn.
  • Encourage Integration of Technology in Education: This includes providing schools with the necessary tools and infrastructure to embrace digital learning platforms, making education more engaging and adaptable to various learning styles.
  • Invest in Teacher Training and Professional Development: Ensuring educators are well-equipped to leverage innovative teaching methods, including online resources, will contribute to a more dynamic and effective learning environment.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?

  1. Embrace Imperfections: I wish someone had emphasized that imperfections are part of the journey. In the early days of creating Studimation, I aimed for flawless videos. However, one day, a small mistake was left in the final edit. Surprisingly, viewers loved it, and it taught me that authenticity and relatability often lie in the imperfections.
  2. Value Feedback: Understanding the true value of feedback would have been beneficial. Initially, I hesitated to receive constructive criticism, fearing it would be discouraging. However, I soon realized that constructive feedback is a valuable tool for improvement. It helps refine content, ensuring it aligns better with the audience’s needs.
  3. Prioritize Self-Care: Balancing passion and self-care is crucial. There were times when I was so immersed in content creation that I neglected my well-being. Burnout followed, impacting both creativity and productivity. Learning to prioritize self-care, taking breaks, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance became essential for sustained success.
  4. Celebrate Milestones, Big or Small: In the quest for significant achievements, I overlooked celebrating smaller milestones. Recognizing the importance of acknowledging every achievement, no matter how modest, added a sense of accomplishment to the journey.
  5. Adaptability is a Strength: I wish I knew the importance of adaptability from the start. The world, especially the online landscape, is dynamic. Adapting to changes, trends, and audience preferences is crucial for staying relevant. Initially resistant to change, I learned the hard way that adaptability is a strength, not a compromise.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I’d say, you’ll never influence the world by trying to be like it! Each person, regardless of age, possesses a unique set of skills, experiences, and perspectives that can contribute to positive change. Your uniqueness, combined with your positive impact, has the power to shape a world that aligns with your vision, not someone else’s standards. Don’t be afraid to stand out and make a difference, even if it means deviating from the norm. In the eyes of positive change, being ‘lame’ to the wrong crowd is an absolute triumph.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

A private lunch with Elon Musk would be fascinating. His innovative approach to technology, education, and the future aligns with Studimation’s ethos of pushing boundaries. Learning from his experiences in revolutionizing various industries and his vision for the future could provide valuable insights, not just for the channel but for the broader intersection of education and technology.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Zainab Khan Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.