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Muslim teen in Catholic school earns respect, acceptance from students and faculty alike

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Pittsburgh Catholic) - It’s easy to see why Amanda Jaber stands out at Quigley Catholic High School in Baden.


She’s personable, and her leadership qualities are evident. She is president of the student council and has been class president in each of her four years. She’s also a member of the National Honor Society and has been on the basketball, softball and soccer teams.

There’s also her work as a student mentor and student ambassador.

“She’s a go-getter,” said teacher Karen O’Brien. “Nothing is going to stand in her way.”

Jaber also takes part in the spiritual aspects of the school. She was among the offertory gift-bearers during a recent Mass welcoming back Bishop David Zubik.

Her strong presence at Quigley isn’t earth-shattering in itself. What is surprising is that she does it as a member of the Islamic faith.

“She is a very mature young woman who loves her family and has a great respect for her parents, grandparents and her native culture,” said Dr. Madonna Helbling, school principal. “She is able to make judgments and decisions that show respect for her beliefs as well as the beliefs of her friends.”

Quality attracted her to Catholic school

Jaber attended grades five through eight at St. John the Baptist in Monaca. She was prepared to attend a public high school before she began looking into Quigley Catholic. She was attracted by the quality of education that she would receive.

She said her parents were initially worried about her decision, but they supported it when she explained it from a scholarly perspective.

“It’s the best decision I could’ve made, hands down,” she said. “I don’t know where I’d be if I wasn’t here, but I can’t imagine it being any better.”

Jaber noted that while her initial decision to attend Quigley was purely academic, she has come to love the school for what she has learned outside the classroom. She said the students and staff reflect respect and sincerity, and she feels comfortable in the family atmosphere in which people can relate to one another on a personal level.

She said she has come to appreciate the Catholic faith for its teaching to love one another and refrain from being self-centered.

Jaber said it parallels her faith in a number of ways.

She noted that while she has been surprised at how little most people know about Islam, she is appreciative that her fellow students have allowed her to share it.

“I love the fact that they’re so open to learning about my faith,” she said. “They all know they can ask me any question they want without offending me.”

One fellow student has asked her to teach him Arabic.

Disproving stereotypes

Jaber said that with so many negative images surrounding the Islamic faith, it’s important for students to know someone who can prove the stereotypes wrong and change their perception.

O’Brien pointed out that Jaber has been helpful in explaining aspects of Islamic culture, including the celebration of Ramadan.

“She brings a unique perspective to the class in how she sees different things,” she said. “Not only religiously, but creatively.”

O’Brien added that Jaber has been so willing to participate in religious activities at the school that she didn’t realize Jaber wasn’t Catholic until the subject came up during a class.

Jaber would like to pursue a career in medicine. She will continue her education at another Catholic institution when she enters St. Vincent College in Latrobe in the fall.

“Hopefully, I can deepen my learning about the Catholic faith there,” she said.

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Pittsburgh Catholic(www.pittsburghcatholic.org), official newspaper of the Dicoese of Pittsburgh,Pa.

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