Meeting Malala: An Inspirational Day for AHA Students

Demarest, NJ: Three seniors from the Academy of the Holy Angels were on hand as world-renowned girls’ education advocate Malala Yousafzai was named the United Nations Messenger of Peace. Alexandra McCartha of Teaneck, Katherine Staff of Oradell, and Amanda Hernandez of Northvale are leaders of AHA’s Girl Rising Club, which highlights the importance of education for girls. The club shares its name with a documentary that illustrates how girls in developing countries struggle to get an education. Club members recently showed segments of “Girl Rising” during the keynote portion of AHA’s Awareness Day, “Empowering Girls: Connecting Mind, Body, and Spirit.” One of the film’s producers subsequently invited the students to meet Malala.
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres introduced Malala, calling her a hero – a description borne out by her life story.
In 2008, Malala spoke to a local press group, courageously questioning the Taliban’s decision to ban education for girls in her native Pakistan. The following year, she wrote a blog (under a pseudonym) for the BBC Urdu website, describing the Taliban’s occupation of Swat, including the destruction of over 100 girls’ schools. She was not yet a teen at the time.
She later became a peer educator and promoted journalism, debate, and dialogue as vehicles for young people to make an impact. Those who were unaware of Malala up to that time learned of her efforts on October 9, 2012, when a Taliban gunman shot and injured her in an unsuccessful murder attempt.
In 2014, at the age of 17, she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She has received numerous other awards and honors, including the Sakharov Prize, the Simone de Beauvoir Prize, the United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, the Mother Teresa Award, and Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize. Her book, “I Am Malala,” is an international best-seller and earned a Goodreads Choice Award in the best memoir and autobiography category.
Now 19, Malala resides in Birmingham, England. She is the founder of The Malala Fund, a non-profit organization that strives to ensure that girls receive at least 12 years of education.
“As a student in a private all-girls school, I feel privileged and fortunate to have the benefit of an excellent education where I am pushed to excel in an all-female environment,” AHA’s Amanda Hernandez said. “The notion that so many girls are denied the basic right to an education is shocking and unacceptable to me. It was inspiring to hear Malala express her views and the fact that she remains undeterred in her mission to fight for equality for all. Importantly, Malala not only stands up for the girls in her country, but she is also an important symbol to girls all around the world and her message extends beyond education. Malala believes that every girl holds an inherent power to make a change, and it need not be big. She emphasized how a small change can trickle into bigger changes. She explained how an educated girl has the power to change the society around her in a positive way.
“I was especially touched and inspired when she said, ‘Your ideas are important. Your thoughts are important. Believe in them.’”
Since 1879, thousands of women have passed through the portals of Academy of the Holy Angels high school, the oldest private girls’ school in New Jersey. Many go on to study at some of the nation’s best universities, earning high-ranking positions in medicine, government, law, education, public service, business, arts and athletics. Our goal is to provide each girl with the tools she needs to reach the fullness of her potential—spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically, by offering a first–rate education in a nurturing environment where equal importance is placed on academic excellence, character development, moral integrity and giving service to others.