Student Feature: Marlene Muhammed—Adapting to the Unadaptable
Marlene Muhammad is a remarkable student who has made a lasting impact at Clifton High School (CHS). As a second-generation Palestinian Muslim, Marlene has faced various challenges throughout her high school career. Still, her unwavering passion for learning, dedication to her faith and heritage, and strong determination has enabled her to overcome obstacles and excel. Her journey at CHS has been a testament to the power of perseverance.
Marlene transferred to CHS during her sophomore year when CHS was under the COVID-19 quarantine; thus, her first impressions of the school were on a virtual platform. Marlene faced the challenge of adapting to the unfamiliar environment in an even more unfamiliar setting. Being a virtual new student made it difficult for her to make friends and feel like she belonged. However, Marlene did not let this struggle discourage her. Instead, she embraced the change and made an effort to reach out to others and get involved in various clubs that were still active in a virtual setting. As her time at CHS passed, Marlene found that she was able to make new friends and discover activities she loved, and before she knew it, she had adapted to what initially felt unadaptable.
Marlene's involvement at CHS stems from her interests and passions. "Math is my favorite subject, and I love a good challenge, so naturally, I joined the math league and National Math Honors Society." However, her most adored club is the Muslim Student Association (MSA). Marlene joined MSA when she was a sophomore and became the secretary of the club when it was held virtually. She is now in her third year being part of the club and serves as a co-president. "This is my favorite club, where I can learn more about Islam with people I love," Marlene said.
Outside of school, aside from her extracurricular pursuits, Marlene loves cooking, baking, and reading. "One of my favorite things is to experiment with different recipes, bake for my friends, and learn new cooking techniques," she expressed. Marlene is also an avid reader of romance novels and poems. At home, she holds pride in an intricate wall of favorable quotes from all the books she has read. The wall serves as a powerful reminder of the meaningful lessons she has learned from literary works.
Although life-changing messages can be interpreted from reading, life lessons can also occur through daily interactions. Mrs. Springer, Marlene's school counselor, has been the single most impactful mentor throughout her high school career. Mrs. Springer has been there for Marlene every step of the way, providing guidance, comfort, and encouragement when she needed it the most. "Mrs. Springer has always believed in me, even when it was difficult for me to believe in myself," says Marlene. "She pushed me academically and reminded me of what I was fighting for. I wouldn't be where I am without her."
As a Palestinian, she is deeply invested in the current events in Palestine, where territorial disputes, political and economic tensions, and disagreements over resources have left a mark on her community. Yet, despite these challenges, Marlene remains hopeful that the region will find peace and unity one day. "The situation is constantly evolving," she explains, "but I know that my people have suffered its consequences."
Marlene's future plans are just as ambitious as her approach to overcoming challenges and seeking joy in all she does. She plans to study forensic science in college and eventually become a forensic science investigator, an interest manifested from the countless crime television shows she has grown up watching. Her goal is to positively impact the criminal justice system and society by ensuring justice and providing closure for victims and their families.
However, Marlene's high school experience taught her much more than a love for her heritage and people. She has learned the importance of personal growth and development over perfection. Marlene admits that when she first entered high school, she was set on becoming perfect with the best grades and a flawless reputation. But by senior year, she realized that life is about growth, not perfection. "I learned that mistakes and failures are opportunities for growth and development," Marlene reflects, "and that it's more important to focus on my own progress rather than comparing myself to others or striving for an unattainable standard of perfection."
Her unwavering passion for learning, her dedication to her faith and heritage, and her strong sense of determination are qualities that make Marlene a standout student. As she moves forward into the next chapter of her life, there is no doubt that Marlene will continue to positively impact the world around her. With her head held high and her heart full of hope, Marlene sets an example for us to live a life filled with purpose and meaning. She reminds us that the most incredible journey in life is where we learn to embrace our challenges and grow from our experiences. Marlene Muhammad is truly a shining star in the Clifton High School community, and we are proud to call her one of our own.