Honors student balances school, work, volunteering, and objects off his face

Honors sophomore Nader Rayyan can balance almost anything in his life. 

He manages the rigors of majoring in biology. He works two jobs: Building Bridges in Plymouth, Michigan and as a crew member at Home Depot. This year, he joined the Wayne State Fencing team and even finds time to volunteer at Beaumont Hospital in Dearborn. If Rayyan's plate wasn’t full enough, he still finds time to balance objects off of his face.

He discovered this unique ability at the age of 12 during summer break after one of his friends dared him to balance a wooden pole off of his finger. After successfully pulling it off, the rest, it is said, was history. “(In the) summer you don’t have a lot of resources, so you just have to go out and have fun,” Rayyan said. From there, he moved on to bigger and harder symmetrical and non-symmetrical objects, including a shopping cart, a ladder, a flat screen television, vases, and even a bicycle. 

Rayyan said that if he can find an object and lift it up, he can usually balance it.

“People think (that) the longer it is, the harder it is. But, the longer it is, the easier it is because of the center of gravity,” he said. “Symmetrical is easier, but non-symmetrical looks cooler. If you find something that is abstract, like doing a ladder, it’s symmetrical, but at the same time, you have to do it at an angle. You are just trying to find the balance in it.”

He said that two of the hardest objects he has balancd was an ottoman and a 75 pound gate. According to Rayyan, the ottoman was too heavy and pointy and hurt his chin. The gate was so heavy that it popped his eardrums, but he was able to do it for a second and get a picture as proof. After trying these two, he realized his max weight limit was 50 – 53 pounds.

He put his balancing act on display during the first two years of the Honors College’s talent show. Performing in front of a panel of judges comprised of Honors College Dean Jerry Herron and various senior lecturers and staff members, Rayyan’s balancing act finished second in 2016. He followed it up with an amazing performance this past March that earned him first place.  

Reflecting on his Honors experience, Rayyan said that while there was a lot of work in his Honors 1000 and Honors Political Science 1010 class, he has really enjoyed these experiences throughout his first two years. 

His group project in PS 1010 allowed him to mentor and tutor youth at 826michigan, a nonprofit writing center that inspires school-age children to write confidently and skillfully with the help of adult volunteers in the community. 826michigan has locations in Ann Arbor and Detroit, with the Detroit location in the Detroit Robot Factory on Winder.

“Honors allowed me to see a different part of Detroit that I haven’t seen,” he said. “I knew of the disparities in Detroit, but especially this year and last year, I didn’t know how bad the (children) have it. It made me a lot more grateful for what I have.”

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