Ariza Nanji: Barstow's Own Supergirl

By Avleen Grewal
Ariza is truly the girl who does it all.
As a Barstow student, there are numerous sports, clubs, and other activities to take part in. It's always a struggle to manage extracurricular activities with school. Now imagine how hard would it be to run another school on top of going to Barstow, handling its rigorous curriculum of AP classes, and taking part in extracurricular activities.

Ariza Nanji runs a virtual school in Tajikistan to help educate students. For Ariza,  helping the community is important. Furthermore, service has been a really big part of her family. Ever since she was a little kid, she knew that she wanted to help the community. “I knew when I got into high school, I wanted to do something much bigger with the service I was already doing, so I decided to create a book drive originally.” However, Ariza realized there would be no use in collecting books if there was no one who could teach the books to kids.
Someone came to her religious center and informed her about the conditions in Tajikistan. He explained how students could not get access to a quality education because there publicly funded school system.. Ariza knew she wanted to help, so he helped her get connected in Tajikistan. Then, she reached out to Mr. Foster and her old school teachers. Mr. Foster recommended she to talk to Dr. Mullis, who helped her network into the broader Kansas City area. After working with administrators and teachers, she decided she could create a school where students could get access to a quality education despite their financial backgrounds. After partnering with the local government in Tajikistan and nearby private schools and universities, Ariza was able to successfully open her online school. The school is from 9-11th grade.  The class takes session once a week from 12:00-4:00 AM CST on Sundays. Every Sunday, students watch a live lecture run by Ariza and other teachers.

When the pilot program first started, Ariza started with 10 students. After 3 years, the program has grown to over 80 students, and Ariza spends over 20 hours a week in managing the school. Ariza spends time tutoring, checking attendance, and grading homework, and tests. Regarding curriculum, the school teaches math, English, and ethics. Ariza says, “Ethics is about contemporary critical thinking skills which expose us to other perspectives and other world matters necessary for a successful college education.”Ariza would like to expand the school to other cities with the help of Avila and JCCC to places like Rwanda and India. Right now, Ariza is raising money to build a school in Tajikistan. The Tajikistan government provided a lot of the funding for the first two years like projectors, wifi, etc. The rest of the funding they need for textbook and laptops are raised through bake sales outside of Sam's Clubs. So far, they have raised a couple thousand dollars and hope to raise more.

Along with running the school, Ariza also has to complete her own Barstow homework. Ariza explains how the quality of Barstow teaching helps her retain more information. She doesn’t get much sleep, but she tries to use her time wisely and gets most of her work done at school. Ariza said that a lot of her successes are associated with Barstow, and without the school’s help, they would not have been possible. Ariza came to Barstow her freshman year, and her brother, Iqraz Nanji, had also previously attended to Barstow. Ariza, being a first generation student, her parents had always emphasized education and community service. Barstow provided her with a quality of education that differs from many public schools.

Along with the school in Tajikistan, Ariza is involved in many extracurriculars and clubs. She has been a debater since her freshman year of high school. It sparked her international awareness and became a big part of what she wanted to do in her life. She began Friends Through Borders because she was always interested in foreign policy, and is the president of the French Club because of her interests in different languages and cultures. Friends Through Borders is a way to connect with other people, working with countries such as Tajikistan and Argentina. Through pen pals, you can also get 2-6 hours a month by conversing with your assigned pen pal. Ariza is also involved in Model United Nations.  She was already involved in policy debate, so she thought MUN was something she would like. In MUN, she took on leadership positions of helping the club get funding. She likes MUN because she gets to learn more about how countries work together and policies on a more international front.

In Ariza’s limited free time, Ariza teaches an early development class in her religious center and also participated in a Bollywood dance team who went to regionals last year. Thinking to Ariza’s future, she says “I want to be heavily involved in social advocacy when I get older, possibly law, as long it’s something on the international scale where I’m making a difference in communities and working with urban developments.” Overall, Ariza’s experience with service teaches other Barstow students to branch out to find things that they are passionate about. High school is the time for us to find our own interests.

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