By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — After four years at Harvard University, Mariam Jalloul returned to Dearborn to celebrate her graduation surrounded by friends and family.
The 21-year-old completed her undergraduate career by earning her Bachelor in Sociology with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy.
She also earned a language citation in Classical Arabic.
The journey to graduation for Jalloul ended by giving one of two senior class day speeches May 25.
She heard about the opportunity and submitted a written speech along with 80 other students. From the 80, 20 students auditioned in front of five judges, delivering their speech.
One male and one female student were chosen as the senior class day speakers.
“I was overwhelmed when I found out that I was chosen to deliver the class day commencement speech,” Jalloul said. “It was so humbling to know that the message resonated with my classmates. I also knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that my parents would be elated with pride seeing me up there. I really just thought of them over anything else.”
Her classmate, Min-Woo Park, was chosen as the male class day speaker.
Actress and writer Rashida Jones also gave a speech for friends and families of graduates.
Jalloul’s mother, Mona Jalloul, attended the ceremony and was proud.
“As a mother, I was so proud to see her on stage delivering an oration to her Harvard peers and to a crowd of over 10,000 people,” she said. “I shed tears of joy the entire time. I know how hard Mariam works and how humble she is about her work, so getting to see her recognized meant so much.”
Mona Jalloul remembers the reaction of her daughter’s peers after she delivered the speech.
“It was an incredible experience,” she said. “Countless parents and students would stop us on the street throughout commencement and congratulate Mariam on what a wonderful speech she gave.”
Mariam Jalloul first made news just before she graduated from Fordson High School in 2012 when she was accepted at Harvard University. She applied, and received her acceptance letter on Dec. 15, 2011.
She reminisced about her time attending Harvard, citing the friends she made and travel opportunities she had as her favorites.
“I made life-long friends who were so different from me, challenged my thoughts, and made me a better citizen of the world,” Jalloul said. “The study abroad opportunities were also very integral to my time at Harvard — getting to live in places such as South Africa, Brazil and Vietnam was such a life-changing experience, and I am so grateful for it.”
When it came time for a graduation party, Jalloul and her parent’s had no doubt where it would be held, The Arab American National Museum on June 2.
“We chose the Arab American National Museum because it is such a staple in our community, showcasing the accomplishments of all the great Arab Americans to come before us, who helped pave the road for us,” she said.
For her future plans, Jalloul plans to pursue a master’s degree in Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
“I hope to use my education and experience to better serve metro Detroit,” she said.
To watch Jalloul’s senior class day speech go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHUQQB0dsFs.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at email@example.com.)