By Madiha Shahabuddin, Class of 2004
(from a speech given at a benefit dinner on April 15, 2006)
It’s commonly said that your years in high school are the best years of your life. Although I’m only half-way through high school, that’s still pretty far, and I can confidently say they aren’t. My middle school years were the best years of my life, and I’m almost certain they will be for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t be able to state this in such confidence, however, if I hadn’t attended New Horizon School.
It’s the people; it’s the life lessons; it’s the challenging work load I grumbled about everyday, not knowing just how much it would prepare me for high school. It’s the feeling of not just being at school, but being around a family willing to support you.
I don’t know of many schools in which their students refer to their schools as a second home, because that was what New Horizon was to me and many of my classmates. This closeness stems from our common Islamic beliefs and morals. The students, faculty, and teachers brought these morals to life. I truly felt like my friends were my sisters, and still, years later, I do now. Students and teachers were so close; the boys in our class would go paint-balling with our English and History teacher, Mr. Khan, on the weekend. The teachers taught us the kind of life lessons you can’t learn from the books, those we as second generation Muslims in America could not grasp from other sources. They had experienced growing up here and could relate to our struggles over adapting to and living in this society while still adhering to our Islamic principles. And they showed us it was possible. Our teachers weren’t just our role models, but our friends who concerned themselves with our problems or struggles if ever we had any.
The most beautiful aspect of New Horizon was and is its diversity. My class alone consisted of Muslims from Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, along with a few non-Muslims as well. Here was the essence of Islamic unity amongst vast diversity. There were no such things as cultural clicks where people of the same ethnicity stuck with themselves only. In my class, a Pakistani boy was best friends with a Palestinian boy, while an Egyptian boy was best friends with a Malaysian boy. Our cultural differences weren’t walls, but bridges, linking our experiences, struggles, and victories.
Don’t think just because it’s an Islamic school, New Horizon lacks academic excellence. Because it’s the exact opposite. In fact, I think because New Horizon is an Islamic school, it values high standards of education, in perfect line with the Islamic emphasis on gaining knowledge. Let me tell you, it was challenging. From science fair projects and animal dissection, to book reports and essays, we learned everything. In reality, when I began high school, my honors classes were easy for me, unlike the others in my classes who found it quite difficult. From New Horizon, I was automatically entered into honors classes for my freshman year. Now, in my sophomore year, I’m in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, as many of my fellow New Horizon classmates are, and in honors. I’m on the yearbook staff, newspaper staff, and treasurer for our high school’s MSA.
As you can see, New Horizon enables a student to achieve great potential. It transforms Muslim children into aware, active, prepared Muslim youth. Many Muslim adults worry over the question of our fate in America. We search for the answer to the question: How will we teach our children, our future Muslim Ummah? Well, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, you’re sitting in it. The answer lies in productive, challenging schools such as New Horizon, bringing about monumental change in the future of our Muslim youth.