June 05, 2018 07:44 PM
When the last student leaves class at the Al-Amal School later this week in Fridley, it will end a long journey for the principal Audrey Zahra Williams.
Back in the early 1990s, the Islamic school formed in Williams' St. Paul home.
"We take our religion and our academics seriously," said Williams. "Education now in all Islamic schools is a big push. You can't just have the environment anymore and survive as a school."
The school is the oldest accredited Islamic school in Minnesota with more than 400 students.
"The kids we are sending out I would wish will make an impact with humanity and humanitarian issues. It's important because we won't survive as a race," said Williams.
The school, with pre-kindergarten up to 12th-grade students, is set up to allow 11th- and 12th-graders to take classes at area colleges while returning to take Islamic studies at the school.
Williams said what the school teaches students is different than when the school first started back in the 1990s.
"The conversations now are how can you be a better citizen, how you can keep your faith, how you can get the support for your faith, and how you can interact with non-Muslims. That's a big push at this school," said Williams.
Her quiet but powerful voice captures the attention of the students that attend the school, along with the personal attention to each student who walks the halls.
"She still knows everybody by name off the top of her head. It's mesmerizing. Even I can't remember that many names of my own relatives," said eighth-grader Fartun. "She always cares about everybody. Even in your darkest times, she's there."
Willams is looking forward to working in her garden this summer, the first summer she's truly had off since becoming a principal.
In the fall, she'll return to teach, which was her first passion before becoming an administrator.
"I would encourage anyone with a passion to go for it. That's when good things come from life," said Williams.
The retiring principal has helped establish an accreditation system for Islamic schools across the country.
Updated: June 05, 2018 07:44 PM
Created: June 05, 2018 03:58 PM
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