Beauty Surrounds Us

Monir Zandghoreishi and Maurice Leary

Our story about Monir Zandghoreishi and Maurice Leary is a fine example of what American stands for. Maurice is built like a linebacker and Monir has the regal bearing of a Persian Princess.  Monir fled Iran during a time of grave political upheaval and unrest.  Maurice comes from a hardscrabble past in New Rochelle, New York. They both share something in common: a heart of gold and a commitment to help young people.

Monir came to America as a single parent with three small children. As an immigrant with no money and slim job prospects, she was confident in two things: her unshakeable faith in God and people, and her ability to sew. Her aim, always, is to help everyone she encounters. Today, she is one of the most sought after fashion designers in the Northwest and she uses her talent to do more than mentor young people; she helps every single person she encounters, from homeless people she randomly meets on the street to young immigrants who need help the same way she once needed help.

Maurice took his tough upbringing and created something grand—Step-it-up Camp, an after school sports program and summer camp.  Kids from low income backgrounds who had little in the way of encouragement and support from the traditional school setting are thriving under his guidance. Maurice recognized that kids needed to learn something more than sports to stay off the street; they need to learn skills for life. The kind of skills that are portable and can be taken anywhere. He asked Monir to offer her skills as a designer and seamstress. If she could teach young people to sew, they can always find work.

During the photo shoot, the children showed up to tell their story. Black, brown, yellow and white, they are the faces America, and beautiful. One girl, named America, said it best. “This is all about Community.”



Patricia Vaccarino

Patricia Vaccarino is an accomplished writer who has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, articles, essays, speeches, web content, marketing collateral, and eight books.

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What does Step-it-Up Camp Mean to me?


“It’s a fun program!” - Angel Flores


 “Step-it-Up joins the community together!” - Cassie Palomura