The All-School Read committee selected I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban for 2014. Of course, Malala's story is inspirational on its own, but this story also powerfully shows what one young woman can accomplish.
The story and its setting also allowed Berkshire to build a rich program—far beyond a single speaker—through alumni who had deep connections to the subject. We assembled a group of panelists who could provide personal and historical context for Malala’s story: alumni Mati Amin '08 and Don Goodrich '61, heavily invested in women’s education throughout Afghanistan, shared engrossing experiences. We also invited Shabana Basij-Rasikh (sister of Mustafa Basij-Rasikh ’08), the managing director of SOLA, School of Leadership, Afghanistan, a nonprofit organization helping young Afghan women access education and professional opportunities to share her own thoughts about the wide-reaching ramifications of Malala’s story. Capping off the program was a keynote speech by Shiza Shahid, an entrepreneur and social innovator of Pakistani origin who helped establish the Malala Fund.
The impact of Malala’s story on our campus was not limited to just two days in September. Over the course of the year, faculty and students explored issues immerging from the book: violence against women, education of women, global feminism, and religious controversy, to name a few. To further this discussion, a partnership was formed between Berkshire faculty and The George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute to pilot the I am Malala curriculum guide. The work with Malala moved beyond the Mountain, as well. For their exceptional submissions to the All-School Read contest, Ifunanyachi Achara ’17, Gwynne Domashinski ’16, Sarah Kinney ’15 and Kelly Maurer ’18 were selected to attend a ceremony in Philadelphia, where Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai accepted the Liberty Medal from the National Constitutional Center. Reflecting on his ASR experience, Achara said, “When I saw Malala receive the Liberty Medal and all the young people on the panel, I realized that age has nothing to do with greatness.”
This year’s All-School Read provided a powerful message about opportunity, risk-taking and service, and allowed the community to learn about a culture that is battling war and fanaticism in hopes of finding equality.
Culture is always changing, always evolving. Not just Afghan culture but here in the U.S. as well. There is always room for change. SHABANA BASIJ-RASIKH