What Our Children Had To Say: Winner, Nour Asfour, Grade 12

What Our Children Had To Say:
Quotes from the Universal School Annual Essay Contest 2013
Winner, Nour Asfour, Grade 12
“The incomplete, unattractive gymnasium has been the setting of countless events over the past thirteen
years….In this room, I graduated from Mrs. Jody’s kindergarten class; and in this room, in a short span of six
months, I will graduate as a senior from the institution that has molded me into the young woman I am today….”
“The room is quite glided; it is glided by the physical ugliness that disguises the love, achievement, and beauty it
“I have learned much about science, history, mathematics, and language throughout my thirteen years in Universal
School; but, the principles this gym has taught me are unparalleled. Though this room is not pleasing to the eye, it
reflects the humility that must accompany achievement, the happiness that must accompany imperfection, and
the progress that must accompany disadvantage. Never again will I judge a person, an institution, a literary work, a
type of cuisine, or community by its appearance….In essence, this room has taught me lessons that a standard
classroom setting cannot.”
Winner, Marwa Sahloul, Grade 7
“Though the appearance of the battlefield is one that I come across almost every day, the sight of it still strikes me
as amusing. Basically, it looks like a bunch of ants operating in different directions in a sort of free-for-all
mechanism, endeavoring to get to one particular spot. Universal School traffic was, and always will be, the
highlight of the day—just one of those priceless moments where you’re able to spot who’s parked in an illegal
parking space just to drop off their child, or who’s entered the parking lot from the wrong side….”
“Universal School provides to us the hope of getting somewhere. That maybe I’ll be in that news anchor’s seat or
on that basketball team’s bench. Universal School administers a community of ambition and objective that
addresses the daily needs of its students….I make my way out to Mrs. Hashim’s class at 3:30 followed by the
winding staircase leading to the creaking doors as I gasp in the open air. And just like clockwork, Universal traffic
begins again.”
Winner, Malek Sarhan, Grade 12
“‘Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.’ (Abraham Lincoln) Standing tall and firm is hard,
but doing it while you are in the right place is easy. What Lincoln meant was you cannot be successful if you have
not found the right environment. I know I am in the right environment. It’s true I have not been at Universal my
entire life but I knew the second I walked through those doors with the calligraphy bearing the school’s motto,
‘Where Islam and Education come together’, that I would do big things here, and I was never wrong….”
“To be honest, religion wasn’t always at the top of my agenda, but once I came to Universal that all changed. I
began to pray five times a day, and fast all of Ramadan, and I even gave a khutbah. I could never imagine myself
doing that 3 years ago….”
“I do appreciate the fact I went to a non-Muslim school for a while so I got to see both aspects of society, both
lifestyles, and two different paths…but because of Universal my feet were in the right place so I stood firm.”
Winner, Amir Zoubeidi, Grade 7
“Something that I have learned at Universal School and will take away with me after I graduate is that I must work
hard if I want to be a successful person….”
“My 7 grade teacher, Mrs. Hamdan, is a great teacher and role model. She cares about how we learn and how
we do. She even will stay after school to help students if they need extra help. This makes me want to work
harder so that I don’t let her, my family, or myself down. At first, I thought it would be easier to get A’s, but now I
know I need to work hard, and pay attention to what is being taught so that I can be successful in my life….”
“Alhamdulillah, I have a great teacher, Mrs. Hamdan, and an excellent school that teaches me that working hard in
everything I do will help me all my life.”
Salem Abuammer
“If I was in a public school, it would be harder to find a place to pray….”
“The Islamic environment is only one factor that contributes to my success at Universal School. The fact that we learn about
our religion and the language of the Quran, Arabic, in the school is the major contributing factor to my success.”
Manar Ahmed
“….being able to walk to the Masjed every day to pray Salat Al-Thuhr is the most refreshing motion of the day.”
“The Dawa Club also holds an “Operation Rose” field trip where we head downtown and pass out roses to every kind of
Chicagoan, Muslims or not. Not only do we develop and learn about different aspects of Islam, but we are also able to give
Dawa to people who are not practicing Islam.”
Sajid Ahmed
“I believe Universal has given me the ability to analyze a situation and adjust to it in a way that preserves my core beliefs and
helps others preserve theirs. So when I set off into the horizon to pursue what life has to offer, I will remember my experiences
here at Universal and I will remember what it has taught me above all: God is above and He is watching what I do.”
Hiba Alwatik
“I know I probably would not open up the Qur’an to memorize Surat Luqman or crack open an Islamic Studies book to read
about the Battle of Badr on my own. However, Universal has encouraged me to read and learn about my deen. I will forever
be grateful for this.”
Danya Alzein
“As a school with unique ethnicities, Universal School helps us to understand diverse cultures better and helps shape a more
united ummah…..”
Rahma Bayrakdar
“My journey in expanding my knowledge, both academically and religiously, at Universal has taught me many lessons—the
most important being to love for others what I love for myself.”
Ahmad Hamdan
“Universal School is my resort away from home. It is somewhere I am not hesitant to say I cherish going to. It has enlightened
me all about Islam and constructed me to the Muslim I am today.”
Basem Hamdan
“Similar to the manner in which my parents want me to excel in school and life, the teachers of Universal School compel me to
strive harder to succeed by continuously encouraging me. Admittedly, a certain warmth emerges through me once a teacher
praises me, just as I feel in the situation when I please my parents”
Jenna Jaghama
“Every day I wake up with a renewed intention to learn and thank Allah (SWT) for my life at Universal.”
Zaynab Jarad
“There is something special about Universal that compensates for all its minor flaws….It is felt from the minute one enters the
school; it is the atmosphere….”
“….when I leave Universal, I may not remember the Doppler Effect, or the date that Christian Doppler discovered it, but what I
know for sure that I will never forget, are the life skills and Islamic knowledge I gained.”
Yousif Khaleel
“At Universal, we are given the blessing of a Muslim teacher. I was not that lucky before. I was in a public school where
children and teachers alike teased me about my mom’s hijab….”
“….Not only were the teachers at Universal accepting of my religion, but they actually wanted me to be a better Muslim! They
actually cared about my grades and success. They are kind and understanding when I make mistakes….”
“During my years at Universal I learned I could worship freely.”
Ranya Khateeb
“My Quran classes throughout the years, especially during my high school years, are, and will forever remain, treasured
channels through which knowledge of Islam reached my heart.”
Noor Krad
“From my experience as a Universal School student, I have the ability to take with me something of immense value to my near
future: my friends….”
“….Not only did I form personal ties with a group of Muslim girls, but I genuinely had the blessing to love them for the sake of
Allah (SWT).”
Ahmad Malas
“Universal School—the environment, the staff, the smiles I see every day—hasn’t just morphed me into who I want to be, but
they’ve stipulated me onto the path of who I should be….”
“….When we proceed to the Masjid every day and the iqama is called, we hear, “Hayal as-Salah, Hayal al-Falah,” or “Come to
Salah, Come to Success.” The constant reiteration of this message instills in me that connection that is essential to my purpose
as a human being. Fully attaining adequate piety is the destination of the path that Universal School has entrenched in me.”
Reema Martini
“….we are given Islamic knowledge throughout our daily activities, such as small prayers that are recited before an exam or
simply saying salam to each other in the hallways….Islam permeates through every single action that we commit while within
the walls of Universal School.”
Jinan Mohammad
“If there is anything I have gained from my experience at Universal and will cherish for the rest of my life, it is how to keep hold
of your Iman when people are relentless in trying to steal it from your grasp.”
Kenan Nabulsi
“Last year was my first year at Universal, and I made my closest friends through working together on the 6 grade basketball
“….what is most important when playing other teams, Muslim or non-Muslim, is to have an Islamic manner to represent
Muslims in a good way….I think our team did a pretty good job at that.”
Malik Sahouri
“By involving Islam in every part of its system, Universal School allows students to remember Allah in everything they do.”
Allia Sunbulli
“Universal’s Islamic environment has resulted in the increase of faith and confidence in myself.”