Inspiring Women Series: Ronahy Alzagha, Student Leader
In this penultimate post in the Inspiring Women Series, we meet Ronahy Alzagha, a high school junior at East Leyden High School from just outside of Chicago, IL. As a student leader in a school built around student voice and leadership, she truly shines as an inspiring young woman for us to look up to. In this interview, Rohany shares wisdom beyond her years and reminds us that we can be our own heroes.
What do you think makes Leyden a special place to be a student?
Leyden is a special place to be a student because it is a place where all ethnicities are welcomed. It is a place where no one feels left out. All my teachers tell me how fortunate we are to have students of multiple ethnicities in one classroom. The diversity of students at Leyden, I think, is the key factor to its specialty. There was not one day at Leyden where I felt like a stranger. I was always afraid that in high school that I would find no place to fit in because I felt so different from everyone else; however, I realized that being different at Leyden wasn't so different. Everyone had a different culture, language, and heritage. There was nothing to fear anymore because at Leyden everybody was different. No body fit in because everybody stood out uniquely. Going to school here taught me that it is okay to be unique because being the same is boring. I have to be proud of who I am. Being a Leyden student taught me that and I am glad that attended this unique high school.
I know you have a lot of leadership roles at Leyden, can you share some examples of a few?
At Leyden, I am the Class of 2016 class president. It was honor to be picked by my fellow class board members. I will make sure that I represent the Junior class in the best picture possible and be their voices when they are not heard. Also, I am the president of other clubs here at Leyden, like Recycling club. I am also part of the student Leadership Team. We have a meeting every month and talk about how can we make Leyden the best school it can be. This team has only 30 other Juniors, some sophomores, making it a very honorable team to be in. I am also a mentor in the Access program which is an after school freshmen program aimed to assist them in their first year of high school. Everyday for 30 minutes, I get to help a group of freshmen excel in school, make friends, and be inspired to embrace themselves and become future leaders.
Why did you decide to take on these roles?
Taking these roles has made be a stronger person. I have always found myself of being a natural leader. My goal in life is help as many people as possible and that is what these roles are allowing me to do. It is not the authority or the titles that come with the role that make these roles worth while, it is the reward of seeing people smile, laugh, and feel confident about themselves. I have learned so much from these roles and continuing to learn from all the different experiences I have encountered.
Can you tell us a story about something you've done recently that you're proud of?
Recently in Spanish class, I gave a presentation about my Muslim culture. It was over 25 minutes long. My teacher was so impressed with my presentation that she ended sharing it with Mr. Markey, East Leyden High School principal, and talking about it to the rest of her classes. I am proud that I was able to spread a positive message about my Muslim culture because recently all it's been building a negative reputation because of ISIS. I am proud of myself for sharing such delicate information to my class and be able to have that much influence over how they think with a simple presentation.
What would your advice be to young girls who aren't feeling confident to be leaders or take charge?
For all young girls out there, I want to tell them that being a leader is not about changing the world. Being a leader is about helping others. It is about inspiring others to become better people. Be comfortable in your own skin because if you are not proud of who you are, you can't help others to be. Taking small actions can make a huge difference in the lives of others. Make sure that you are kind to everybody every day because you never know your how small simple actions can impact another person's life. Know that you have a great amount of power within you. Know that you can do whatever you set your mind to just if you believe in yourself. Once you build your self-confidence make sure to lead by example. Be the change you want to see. Be the person you want others to be.
What are your hopes and dreams for your future?
My hopes and dreams I think are like any Middle Eastern girl. My main hope is simply to make my parents proud of everything I do. I want to be their support and hope in life. My family has struggled a lot being a Muslim, Palestinian, immigrant family in the United States. In my future, I want to pull my family out of the struggles that we have lived together. I want to make their lives better. That is why I study hard and get good grades. I want a bright, successful future so I can achieve the dreams and hopes of my family. Family comes first in life no matter how much time passes. I want to become a doctor because it has been my parents dream, and I work everyday with that dream in the back of my mind. I will do everything that it takes to become the success my parents want me to do. I want to provide them with a life better than the one we live today.
What is your super power?
I am no superhero. I have never saved anyone's life, but I think that I have the ability to influence people because I understand them. I have my way with words that makes people listen to what I have to say making them respect me. I am not afraid to speak my mind, even if my ideas are way different than everyone else. I think that I give good honest advice to those who need it. I am there for people when they need a helping hand.
What would your "title" be if you had to give one to yourself?
I don't want to sound cliche, but I would want my title to be "Ronahy Alzagha." My own name is the best title for me. My name defines who I really am. It represents my culture, my heritage, and my pride. My name is unique which gives me a unique character and personality. In the future, I want my name to be known for its accomplishments. There is nothing that suits me as a title better than my own unique name.
Read more interviews in the Inspiring Women series: