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Arab American Heritage Month

April 2024

As we welcome the month of April, Arlington Public Schools embraces Arab American Heritage Month. This is a special time to celebrate the rich culture, history and contributions of Arab Americans in our community and across the nation. The Arab world consists of 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including nations like Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

At APS, we believe in fostering an inclusive community that empowers all students and families. This month presents an opportunity to explore and appreciate the diversity that strengthens our community. Through educational programs, cultural events, and classroom activities, we aim to enrich our students’ understanding and appreciation of Arab American heritage.

We encourage each of you to join us in this celebration. Whether it’s participating in school events, exploring cultural traditions at home, or simply learning more about the achievements of Arab Americans, your engagement makes a difference.

It’s important to note that the term Arab refers to a cultural and linguistic group, not a race or religion, allowing for a wide range of identities and experiences within the Arab American community.

On Thu, April 25, the Arlington School Board will recognize the 2024 Arab American student leaders from across APS high schools and programs as chosen by their principals. These students have excelled academically, demonstrated commitment to social justice, overcame hardships and contributed significantly to the community through collaboration, mentoring and involvement in various causes.

Let’s come together to honor the vibrant traditions and contributions of the Arab American community.

Arlington Career Center - Mostafa Mohamed 

Arlington Career Center - Mostafa Mohamed

ACC proudly recognizes Mostafa Mohamed, who is an example of dedication, leadership, and compassion within our Arab American community. Mostafa’s remarkable contributions in and out of the classroom embody the spirit of excellence and service. Not only has Mostafa demonstrated determination to improve his academics, but he has also shown a profound commitment to fostering inclusivity and social justice. Through his involvement in the Muslim Student Association, Mostafa has tirelessly advocated for the rights of his peers, securing essential resources such as prayer rooms and time for religious observance. Also, his leadership extends beyond cultural advocacy, as he actively engages in initiatives such as diversity chats, professional development for teachers, and the Arlington Tech boys’ cohort.  His participation embodies the qualities of empathy, understanding, and collaboration. Mustafa is known by his peers for being a kind student who is always willing to help others. He is a good listener, reflective, easy to talk to, and always willing to collaborate. Adults who work with Mostafa describe him as a thoughtful and caring young man who is always ready to serve and support everyone.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program - Nur Muhammad 

Nur Muhammad

Nur will be representing the Arab American Heritage Student at the Shriver Program this year. Nur is a pleasure to have in the Shriver Program. Nur enjoys music, spending time with her friends, and learning history.  Nur also likes to dance, sing in Arabic, and enjoys eating chicken and rice. Nur enjoys going out in the community with her peers and Shriver faculty and staff members. While in the community Nur enjoys riding the bus, reading metro related signs, and looking out the window during her rides.  During Friday school wide jobs, Nur can be observed wiping down the tables in the cafeteria, stacking milk, and assisting with recycling around the building.   In the area of academics, Nur enjoys reading, math, and social skills lesson. Nur continues to make progress across the curriculum by following teacher directed instruction, working in small groups with her peers, and answering open ended questions.

H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program - Khadijah Ahearn 

Khadijah Ahearn is an outstanding representative of the H-B Woodlawn community. During her time at HBW she has been involved with the Culture Fair and working with some of our younger Arab American students on their tables and presentations.   She also helped to bring a table with information about Palestine in addition to her table about Iraq.  Khadijah organized the sale of baked goods and handmade items in support of Palestinian women in Gaza.  While fasting as a part of Ramadan Khadijah has been engaging in lots of conversations with her non-Muslim peers about the importance of this practice to her and her faith. We are lucky to have Khaidijah as an active member of our school community.

Washington-Liberty High School - Sara Martah 

Sara Martah

Sara Martah is a Junior student leader and outstanding citizen at Washington-Liberty High School. She is an academi scholar, the president of her school’s Muslim Student Association, and an active member of her community through participating in volunteer work and justice/awareness research at George Mason University. An important figure for Sara is Ibn Batuta, because while he might not have been a world leader, he was a big figure who developed maps and collected historical evidence which is used world-wide today. Sara still remembers the moment in her AP world history class when she saw that Ibn batuta was constantly cited in her textbook and in class activities and decided to google his name when she found out he was Moroccan.

She was surprised because in the past it had never been someone that might be related to her own background that was forming these textbooks or class materials, and it made her realise that there was so much history and so many figures that just were never talked about or showed, which made her develop this attitude without realising that it just wouldn’t be someone like her that would be represented. For Sara that is what heritage month means to them. It’s not about forcing information on people or making them appreciate someone or something simply because it’s just that heritage month and they’re checking off a box, but rather by showing students through curriculums or just simple class activities that they are represented in the subject too, which at the same time exposes students who aren’t a part of that heritage that there is a diverse world of knowledge.

Sara noted that it meant so much more to her to see that someone like her could be that important in an American high school class today, than simply forcing the class to watch a video or attend an event, because to her it was always the real life examples that appreciate the importance of different cultures. Sara’s family is what inspires her to achieve success because not only did she know and see how her parents worked hard to set her up for success, but it also gave her something to work for. Sara explained that she strives for success because she wants to make her family proud, and because she wants to help set a good example as the oldest for her younger siblings. She wants them to see what it looks like to work hard and achieve your goals, and by doing that she will also be continuing what her parents taught her. The thing that motivates Sara to achieve excellence is her own goals of wanting to be the best she can be for herself, and also of being in a position where she can help others.

Wakefield High School - Nada Gamal

Nada Gamal

Nada Gamal is a junior at Wakefield High School.  She came to Arlington from Alexandria, Egypt in the 4th grade.  Nada challenges herself by enrolling and achieving academic excellence in the most rigorous courses offered.  She has excelled in Advanced Placement, dual enrollment and intensified classes throughout her high school career, currently earning a 3.5 cumulative grade point average.   Nada is a member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and is secretary of Family Career and Community Leaders of American (FCCLA).  When asked about a person who inspires her, she named her sister, Nourhan, because of her academic achievements and the fact that she earned a full scholarship to James Madison University.  Nada’s goal is to earn a scholarship to a highly competitive university where she will major in criminal justice.  She then plans to earn her law degree so she can fulfill her dream of helping individuals who have been wrongly convicted.  Nada states that Arab American Heritage Month is important to her because “the recognition dispels stereotypes and brings awareness to who we are.”    Her motivation to achieve excellence stems from her belief that she must work hard in order to reach her goals.

 Yorktown High School - Nour El Houdaigui

Nour El Houdaigui

Nour El Houdaigui is a sophomore at Yorktown High School.  She was selected for this honor as she exemplifies Yorktown’s motto of ‘Equity, Excellence, Empowerment’.  Nour’s GPA is 3.9 which includes AP Geography, a course in which she is currently enrolled.  Nour plans to take four AP classes and one dual enrollment class in her junior year.  As the Vice President of the Muslim Student Association, Nour has helped build a community for her fellow Muslim students and raise money for charitable causes.  She is most proud of a collaboration with the student associations of other APS high schools for a group iftar to break their fasts during Ramadan.  Nour is a respectful and polite student who is ready to help out whenever she can.  She is instrumental in the planning of Yorktown’s first Cultural Festival with other members of the Club Leaders Association.  After graduation, Nour would like to study sociology, psychology, or dermatology.

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