Iranian-American Amanda Etemad, 15, of Northfield, recently returned from 10 days at a leadership camp in Los Angeles, sponsored by Iranian Alliances Across Borders.

Although she speaks Farsi and understands Azerbaijani, Amanda Etemad, 15, hadn't talked much to her parents about their birth country of Iran.

"My parents are Americanized," said the Northfield resident and rising junior at Mainland Regional High School. "I came to high school and realized how unique it was to have such a background. So I started asking more questions."

Now Etemad follows political and social events in Iran, such as the recent election of moderate Hassan Rouhani as president. And she recently returned from 10 days at a camp in Los Angeles, sponsored by Iranian Alliances Across Borders.

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"It's to encourage (Iranian-American students) to make a difference," Etemad said of the camp, "and to break the stigma of relations between the U.S. and Iran."

She plans a career in law and politics, and believes Rouhani's election bodes well for improving relations with the United States.

Her mother, Sholeh Aghdam, and father, Majid Etemad, had grown up in northwest Iran, in the Azeri region where Azerbaijani - a form of Turkish - is spoken. Farsi is the main Persian language of the country.

Her parents left Iran in the 1980s and married in Turkey. Etemad's mother said her father encouraged her to leave Iran at age 17, because women had few rights there after the revolution in 1979.

For more on the camp, visit

Water aerobics

Mays Landing's Michele Balesteri, an occupational therapist at Bacharach Rehabilitation Institute in Galloway Township, is among those teaching water aerobics classes for arthritis patients 60 and older in the pool at Bacharach, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

"We get every inch, and focus on the hands, feet, ankles, hips and back," she said. Almost everyone has some knee issues, she said, and water aerobics allows the knees to move under less weight.

A 10-week Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program grant is available to Atlantic County residents who meet income restrictions. Others pay $100 for 10 classes. For more information, visit or call 609-748-5250.

New ACCC hires

Atlantic Cape Community College's Board of Trustees approved the hiring of Linda Palmer, of Hammonton, as director of Worthington Atlantic City support services; and Andre Richburg, of Hackettstown, Warren County, as director of recruitment and admissions, at its July 23 meeting.

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