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Areen Syed '24 took time out of her spring break to participate in any opportunity few high school students receive.

On March 7, Areen took part in a panel discussion called Faith In Action: Women Empowering Communities for Transformational Change as part of the Virginia Wesleyan University Robert Nusbaum Center's ongoing series of continuing education events open to the Hampton Roads community. The event was sponsored in partnership with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

The panelists spoke about how their faith, combined with intentional and action-oriented initiatives, has led to change in the surrounding community.

By many years, Areen was the youngest woman on the five-person panel of Hampton Roads clergy and religious leaders, and its only Muslim. Without notes, she spoke with eloquence, recounting what it was like, years ago, to be a girl who at times was treated differently by a few of her peers.

Areen also told the story of how she became a poet. It was January 20, 2021, Inauguration Day for President Joe Biden. As part of the ceremony, Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureat of the United States, wrote and performed her poem, The Hill We Climb. So enamored was Areen that she dedicated herself to write poetry, and use that medium as vehicle for telling others about herself. 

Areen is no longer just your average teen poet! In 2023, she was chosen to be the Hampton Roads Youth Poet Laureate. That honor earned her a commendation from the Virginia House of Delegates earlier this legislative session. She uses her poetry as a tool for activism in the community.

A well-rounded student, Areen also participated recently in Norfolk Academy's Winter Musical and her poetry was part of the Winter Dance Concert. This spring she is competing on the varsity crew team. She also has been a leader in various clubs and activities; in the fall she helped organize a fundraising concert supporting relief efforts from natural disasters in Libya and Morocco. 

The Norfolk Academy community came to VWU to show its support of Areen. Among those in attendance were classmate Zoë Jones '24, parent Trish Jones, Areen's mother Saher ​Mirza, Head of School Travis Larrabee, Teachers Phil Call and Warren Warsaw, and recently retired longtime History department Chair Richard Oberdorfer and his wife.

Learn more about the panel discussion

Several members of the Norfolk Academy community went to Virginia Wesleyan University on March 7, 2024, to watch Areen.

Several members of the Norfolk Academy community went to Virginia Wesleyan University on March 7, 2024, to watch Areen '24 participate in a panel discussion.

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