Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mariya Ilyas wins Davis Projects for Peace Prize

Mariya Ilyas (SJP '08/Bowdoin '13) teaching math to third grade students at the Al-Imtiaz Academy in Abbottabad, Pakistan last summer.

Q&A with Mariya Ilyas (SJP '08/Bowdoin '13) 

Why do you want to start a journalism program in Pakistan?

I wanted to start a journalism program at the Al-Imtiaz Academy for a number of reasons. First of all, I love journalism and have loved it ever since I was first introduced to it. When I moved to the United States at the age of eight from Pakistan, I was new to everything and I remember joining the journalism class without knowing what it was. When I learned that journalism is the true essence and spirit of democracy—for democracy cannot exist without a free press—I fell in love with the craft. 

I am convinced that had I still been in Pakistan, I never would have discovered my passion for journalism. This is why I want to go back to my birthplace and start a journalism program: I want the students there to have the same opportunity I did. Because most Pakistani schools do not have extracurricular activities, students do not have opportunities to engage in interests other than the subjects they are required to study. I want students to learn about journalism and its power in helping provide a voice to the people, because frankly, journalism is important in any society in ensuring peace.

What did you accomplish there last year?

Last summer, I received the competitive Preston Public Interest Career Fund to pursue my teaching internship with the Al-Imtiaz Academy. I got to work with all age groups, which was pretty neat. I taught numbers and the English and Urdu alphabet to the nursery kids in June; conducted a ‘blogging project’ with 9th and 10th graders in July; and taught mathematics to 3rd through 7th graders in August. Students who participated in the blogging project wrote personal narrative pieces in English that are now published online. At the end of my internship, I also donated a laptop to the school so students could have an alternative source of power (battery) during power outages, which the Pakistani government conducts to conserve energy four times a day.