Becoming Manar the Star
By Manar Dihyem
I walked into Dunkin’ for one of our pair sessions, and I told my mentor Jaime that I wanted to run for school senate. But I needed a speech. The speech below is a result of our collaboration. This speech motivates me to pursue my dreams.
Growing up, I wasn’t used to seeing many Muslim leaders in my community, on TV, or in pop culture. But now I see public figures beginning to rise to represent the Muslim community: everyone from civil rights leaders like model Halima Aden to political leaders like Representative Ilhan Omar. Finally having people who look like me taking big steps like being part of Congress inspires me beyond what words can describe. It makes me want to take leadership, wink-wink. I have more hope and faith in the world when I look out and see leaders I can connect with. My life and my background and what I see when I look at the world have given me plenty of ideas that I think could benefit everyone at my school.
I believe that creativity should never be taken away, but treasured. I believe that fashion is creativity. With that being said, dress codes eliminate students’ sense of freedom through the way they dress, their ability to figure out who they are. This is the reasoning behind my plan to eliminate the dress code. I believe that if the school allows students the ability to choose how they want to dress, then students are more likely to follow other, more important rules like even showing up to school on time. Students stress about what they’re going to wear on a daily basis already and dress codes only make things worse by bombarding them with guidelines that their outfit must meet. School leaders should instead be stressing how their grades are looking, not their hemlines, because while appropriate dress code is important, education is even more vital.
A student’s voice is also crucially valuable. I find that maintaining one’s mental health is extremely difficult when you’re a teenager. We tend to feel obligated to deal with the world’s obstacles. As minorities, we struggle to deal with never-ending brutal racism and stereotypes. As teenagers, we struggle to deal with the idea of self-identification. As scholars, we have piles and piles of work laid before us and we are told to “do it.” How are we expected to manage all of that while we are only human?
Last Ramadan, I didn’t have a good place to pray in school. So I proposed the idea of opening a prayer room. I told the principal that I believed it was a First Amendment issue. And, lo and behold, the first prayer room at the school was opened for business. I decorated it with my dear friend. We felt heard and respected. I will always stand and try to better what is wrong. It doesn’t matter if it affects one student or the whole school. We are to be heard—never silenced. I’m here for you.
Manar Dihyem is a class of 2020 Girls Write Now mentee based in Queens, NY.