Written by: Patricia Kaowthumrong

2018 Asian American Hero of Colorado Award Recipient – Young Hero Award
Naureen Singh serves as the policy director of Colorado Sikhs, a nonprofit that promotes interfaith advocacy. She was also selected as the U.S. delegate for the International Human Rights Summit.

While Naureen Kaur Singh had serious concerns about the plight of the Sikh community in high school, things really began to change for her after the 2012 Sikh temple massacre in Oak Creek, Wis.

“When vigils were organized all around the country — many diverse faiths, traditions and communities showed up in solidarity with the Sikh community,” says Singh, a proud Sikh American and recent graduate from the University of Colorado – Boulder. “For the first time in my life, I began to see how many marginalized communities in this country undergo very similar experiences, whether it be profiling, racism or sexism.

“But when neighbors show up for neighbors in time times of need, it can mean all the difference,” she says.

The tragedy also helped her realize how groups can truly strengthen their impact by working together — much like how the Asian American Hero awards bring people from different backgrounds in Colorado together to recognize common purposes to advance AAPI issues.

Singh currently serves as the policy director of Colorado Sikhs, a nonprofit that promotes interfaith advocacy and works to uplift the state’s Sikh spirit. Her community work at the organization is centered on religious tolerance and inclusivity efforts.

Singh also recently served as the U.S. delegate for the International Human Rights Summit, an achievement she holds dear to her heart. She was one of 50 leaders from around the world (and to her knowledge, the first Sikh American and AAPI representing the U.S. at the summit) to give a speech about her work in Colorado and discuss human rights and the importance of human rights education at the United Nations headquarters.

“As the face of the Sikh-American community in Colorado, Naureen has taken on some daunting tasks and made them not only successful, but also worthwhile, for the teams involved,” says Rohan Peddi, a friend who nominated her for the Asian American Heroes award. “She is truly an ally to many communities — not just her own. She has sat on panels regarding Islamophobia, women in faith and environmental justice on college campuses to increase exposure.”

Singh has spent most of her life in Colorado, but since her father was in the U.S. Army, she has traveled around the world and lived in places like South Korea and Germany. She credits her Sikh-American roots and community for laying the foundation on which she is solidly built.

“Being a Sikh American to me has meant to embody bravery in everything I do,” she says. “Just like many AAPI communities who are fighting to be recognized as equals in this country, being a Sikh American is about fighting alongside them and through whatever resistance might come. If anything, giving back to my community substantiates my purpose on earth.”

However, Singh says she wasn’t always the confident Sikh woman she is today. Until 7th grade, she was the shyest girl in her class and only had a handful of friends.

“But my family pushed me into public speaking and debating, and I began to develop a voice — a voice that I can share and change people’s perceptions,” she says. “Even if my voice was quivering and my hands were shaking, no one can take away that voice of mine.”

For those who are undergoing similar experiences, she has this advice to share: “Surround yourself with a community that will uplift you, empower you and encourage you — whether they agree with you or not.”

Singh says spending two years participating in an ambassador and internship program for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has changed her life — and she encourages individuals to get involved in AAPI organizations dedicated to giving youth the experiences to become competitive in this high-demand market.

“Seek out these opportunities,” she says. “They exist for you.”