O'Hara student 'promotes ideals' of Martin Luther King Jr.
An O'Hara teen has experienced discrimination in Egypt and the United States -- for different reasons.
An Egyptian Christian, Christine Mikhael, 18, of O'Hara is in the minority in her parents' native country. She said she is treated differently there because of it. And in the United States, she said she has been the subject of racial profiling.
Christine will receive the Spirit of Unity Award Monday at the 13th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast at La Roche College honoring diversity in the community.
A senior at Fox Chapel Area High School, she was chosen for the award on the basis of a nominating letter from her teacher, Debra Polesiak, according to Shirley McIlvried of McCandless, a representative of the North Hills Unit of the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh.
Candidates for the Spirit of Unity Award were required to live or attend school in the North Hills, act as an agent of change for racial justice and embody the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr.
Ms. Polesiak, who teaches 12th grade Advanced Placement English Literature and Composition, explained her reasons for nominating the young woman.
"Christine had mentioned in a class discussion how she is a Christian Egyptian, a minority there, and is treated differently because of it, and how she's racially profiled here," Ms. Polesiak said. "The award promotes the ideals of Martin Luther King, and the prejudice against her made her a strong candidate."
The teen wrote a research paper on Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" dealing with racial prejudice in society. She also shared a story from her heritage in storyteller class and wrote a poem about what it is like to be an American as an Egyptian, Ms. Polesiak said.
Christine's parents, Nabil and Mushira Mikhael, were married in Egypt, where her brother, Bassem, 23, was born. She was born in England, while Dr. Mikhael was in residency before moving to the United States.
Christine plans to use a $500 scholarship included in the award to further her education.
"I plan to attend a four-year school and would like to pursue international adoption law," she said.
Her interest in that field stems from her volunteer work at an orphanage in Egypt during visits to relatives every other summer.
"It was seeing how the children were living and wanting to get them into loving homes," she said.
She acknowledges that she has experienced some racial profiling and said, "It's important how it should be confronted and address misconceptions about a culture or ethnicity."
She is president of Student Action for Global Awareness, and proceeds from a bake sale went to CARE International to distribute money for education around the world about child marriage. She also co-founded the International Food Club, thinking it would be a fun way to introduce students to foods from other countries.
Guest speaker at the breakfast is Louise Lippincott, Teenie Harris Project manager at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
Besides the League of Women Voters, the breakfast committee consists of members from AARP, the North Hills Anti-Racism Coalition, North Hills Community Outreach, North Hills-McKnight American Association of University Women, Pittsburgh North People for Peace, Sisters of Divine Providence and the YWCA of Greater Pittsburgh Center for Race and Gender Equity.
The breakfast will be in the Zappala Student Center at La Roche College, 9000 Babcock Blvd., McCandless. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and breakfast at 8:30. Tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for students. Reservations: 412-367-0383.
First Published January 17, 2013 5:12 am