ARCHIVED: College’s "Yonkers Scholar" to pursue study of Muslim women, participate in Muslim-Jewish dialogues

Sarah Lawrence College has announced that Scheherazad Al-Salamin will be the Class of 2014’s Yonkers Scholar. She will come to the College this fall after graduating from the Andalusia School, a private school on Walnut Street in Yonkers that combines academics and the study of Islam.

Al-Salamin, who was home-schooled until eighth-grade, is among 10 students in the school’s first graduating class. Al-Salamin, a Palestinian-American, was born in North Carolina, raised in New York, and moved to Yonkers in 2002.

She was accepted into all ten schools to which she applied. It came down to Barnard College at Columbia and Sarah Lawrence. She chose Sarah Lawrence, based on its small classes and close relationships between students and faculty. She was also drawn to the conference-seminar system, which requires independent study called conference projects.

"At Sarah Lawrence there is an opportunity to focus more intensely on the subjects that you are passionate about and want to pursue at a deeper level. You can pursue what interests you,” she says.

She plans to focus on Muslim women and the hijab—the head-covering required under certain Muslim customs—as one of her first conference projects.

Al-Salamin wears the hijab, which she believes symbolizes feminism, rather than oppression, as some western feminists have suggested.

“It empowers women,” she says. “The reason we wear it is because Muslim women want to be appreciated for their intellect rather than their external beauty.

She also looks forward to becoming part of the Sarah Lawrence community.

“I felt that Sarah Lawrence was more personal, and having grown up in such a small school, I wanted a college experience where you can know everybody and everybody can know you,” she says. “My personality flourishes in a community like that."

In high school, she was yearbook editor and editor of the student newsletter. After school, she works at the Elm Street Neighborhood Center. She started there as a volunteer, and is now employed as an office assistant, working with young children and organizing after-school field trips.

Al-Salamin, who will commute from her home on the Yonkers waterfront , says she plans to ride with the Sarah Lawrence equestrian team. During summer vacations in Pennsylvania, where her family had horses, she rode in jumping competitions. She looks forward to getting back in the saddle this fall.

“I haven’t been on a horse for a while,” she says. “I stopped when we moved to New York. I wanted to concentrate on my studies.”

She also wants to participate in Jewish-Muslim dialogue, as she has done with groups of teens and adults that have met at her home.

“I’ve been in these discussions since ninth grade,” she says. “It helps when both sides understand the other’s frustration and pain.”

It will be part of Al-Salamin’s involvement in a campus she feels will welcome her.