Summing up Maliha’s accomplishments, one of her teachers called her “truly an inspiring person,” adding, “She is probably a better adult than me already.” Maliha ranks 15th in a class of 300. In a moving essay Maliha described dealing with the devastating effects of her mother’s multiple cancers, followed a few years later by an automobile accident that left her father unable to work. “I learned to overcome sorrow by cherishing the smallest family moments,” she wrote. “Every laugh, argument, and tear shed was significant to my growth.” That growth, in a young woman who still takes most of the responsibilities of caring for her younger sister as well as running the household, has also been influenced by her work as a Bengali language translator in a hospital. “Watching children suffer from cancer and their families mourning in devastation,” she wrote, helped her aim for medical school, with the goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist. In another essay she wrote of her decision, after eight years of being afraid to express her religious beliefs, to walk to her mosque wearing traditional Indian clothing, including the hijab. “There is much more to me than being an American,” she wrote. “I have a background, ethnicity and tradition. I will no longer hide my true identity, no matter what obstacles I face.”

Maliha chose to honor Tessa Frank, who led her freshman Global Studies class, as her Teacher Who Made a Difference. “She realized my potential,” Maliha wrote, “and believed in me at my lowest points.” 

Many thanks to Alexander Marson for supporting Maliha through her college journey in honor of his mother, Ellen Marson.