By Angel Tran
Junior Hassan Almusawy sets the bar high as the oldest sibling. He’s in the IB Program, has great grades, is involved in clubs, and serves his community. High standards for younger sister, Sara, a freshman in the Pre-IB program, who also has great grades, is involved in clubs, and serves her community. Like two peas in a pod, Hassan and Sara are best friends.
“We almost have the same personality,” Sara said. “A lot of people we know say that we are surprisingly close which is funny because sometimes, people like my friends don’t even know that we are siblings.”
Like best friends do, they share a lot with each other, including their separate home and school lives.
“We tell each other everything,” Hassan said. “She really is like my best friend, and I can tell her about stuff at school or talk to her about stuff at home.”
“In our community, we are known for being smart,” Hassan said. “There is a lot of pressure to succeed and represent our community well, which can be a lot at times. At school, everyone from our small community is watching, so people know.”
For both siblings, there is a large struggle to find their niche within the school. With the separation of home and school, there is also a separation from their community within school.
“Lincoln High in general is diverse as a school, but be- ing in IB, there aren’t other people like me,” Hassan said. “There aren’t a lot of people who aren’t white…I feel so dif- ferent. But I also have a lot of friends outside of IB Program who are Arab and are Muslim, so it’s nice to see that there are people like me who are going through the same things I am.”
Fitting into the crowd isn’t any easier.
“In my grade, there aren’t many people who wear hijabs,” Sara said. “I don’t really have anyone to study with for my classes, but everyone already has their own study groups and friends, and you can see that at lunch too.”
For both siblings, there is a strong division between their academic lives, and their social lives. For example, having separate friends inside and outside of school.
“It’s kind of difficult for me,” Hassan said. “Because outside the IB Program, the Arabs that go to Lincoln High don’t fit in with them [IB students], and I don’t really fit in with the IB students either, so it’s like living between two different worlds. It’s tough, because a lot of people expect a lot from me because I take such rigorous courses.”
“And a lot of people expect a lot from me, because I am his sister,” Sara said.
Being part of their community is the biggest part of their lives. Living in a small Muslim community, there are high pressures to succeed, and eyes are on them at all times.
“Here in Lincoln, we have a Shia Muslim community that all goes to the same Mosque and we all know each other,” Hassan said. “Because of that, and because of our rigorous courses, a lot is expected out of me from both the Mosque and my family, and a lot of people look up to me which can be a lot of pressure.”
“We have a reputation in our family,” Sara said. “ Anything small that you do can mess your reputation up, and Arabs are really hard on each other, in a judgmental way. So anything you do that is considered ‘wrong’ in our community will be talked about since it’s such a small community.”
With the insurmountable pressure in their lives, however, they have each other.
“She understands my situation more than anyone else I know,” Hassan said. “Our relationship is really good, and she knows everything about me! I trust her.”
“I feel like we both are so different, but we are also exactly the same,” Sara said. “He’s just my best friend.”