Ellis Students Visit the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh

On November 2, grade 11 students visited the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. During their visit, students learned about Islamic feminism and Muslim women in positions of leadership, in Pittsburgh, the United States, and across the world.
Kelcey Sharkas, Director of Programming at the Islamic Center, and Nadija Kawaja, an Outreach Volunteer, met with students during their visit. Kelcey and Nadija talked with the girls about the Islamic faith and tradition, particularly as it relates to women and women’s empowerment.
Kelcey, Nadija, and Ellis faculty members then held a group discussion with the girls on the varied experiences of Muslim women in America today. That discussion gave way to an illuminating exchange on the topic of Muslim women in positions of leadership. Students asked excellent questions, and the answers helped them see, among other things, the ways in which women’s leadership works across different faith traditions and cultures. After the event, Ellis junior, Yolanda Zheng shared her insight that “in Islam, women are given the flexibility by the religion to make choices by themselves, which demonstrates that women are allowed to achieve what they want in Islamic culture...and women can then take very important leadership roles, even as the leaders of countries.”
Ellis Faculty members, Dr. Susan Corbesero and Adam Bisno organized the trip as part of the Upper School Integrated Studies course, Global Leadership by Design. In this interdisciplinary venture, students enhance their global knowledge, essential skills, and innovative strategies to become effective, principled, and innovative change makers in the 21st century.
Upper School is a time of self-discovery. It’s a chance to ask: Who am I? What do I want to become? What am I good at? And, most importantly, what am I most passionate about? The Integrated Studies program at Ellis gives students the opportunity to discover who they are, what they love, and how they can give back to their communities, both local and global.
In preparation for self-directed projects in social entrepreneurship—which they will complete in the third trimester—students spend the first trimester drawing on historical and present-day case studies of leaders from diverse occupations and cultures.
Partnerships with regional organizations like the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, and cocurricluar classes such as Global Leadership by Design, encourage students to develop skills in cross-cultural awareness and communication—essential to global citizenship and leadership in the global context.
Global citizenship is not an additional subject at Ellis, it is an ethos. It is promoted throughout the Upper School curriculum by highlighting aspects such as global education, social justice, the appreciation of diversity, and the importance of sustainable development.
When asked why global education at Ellis is so important, Dr. Corbesero responded, “because it isn't an option not to have it in today’s world. To prepare, empower, and inspire girls to be change agents in society, they must be pushed out of their comfort zones and immersed into other cultures in order to develop empathy—and empathy is one of the most important tools in a leader’s toolbox.”