The Pearl Among the Gems : Shaista Afzal


Shaista Afzal being her true self without caring what other people think.

Taitem Brown, Journalist

Walking around Ripon High School you will see a lot of faces and most of them you probably don’t know that much about. There are too many people to get to know each one of them on a personal level. A lot of people have a hidden talent or story that they don’t share with everyone. Those people are the hidden gems or Ripon High School and among those gems, there is one pearl, Shaista Afzal.

You may have seen Shaista walking around campus and you may have noticed her in the beginning, but not towards the end. Shaista has been wearing a hijab most of her life until recently in her senior year she decided to stop wearing it. Her story, however, did not begin this year, but instead from when she was growing up.

Shaista has grown up in Manteca and Ripon her whole life and her parents migrated from Afghanistan when they were 15 and 16. The change was very drastic and not at all like where they had grown up.

“For them, it was completely different,” senior Shaista Afzal said.

Afzal is very close to her family and they are all supportive of each other and their decisions. Her family plays a big role in her actions and what she does on a day to day basis.

“I think like being so open and being able to talk about things it makes way to correct your mistakes or work on anything you need to like talk about,” Afzal said.

Afzal made the choice to wear her hijab on her own because she liked what it symbolized and meant to her. Wearing it did come with its consequences on her appearance and the way she was viewed. The subtle stares and the way people treat you differently is hard to understand, but it has been a reality for Afzal her whole life. Living in a place like Ripon where there is not much diversity can be hard when you don’t seem to fit in that well.

“I would work at Bethany Home and it’s like super religious and they’re really sweet, but it’s different. I guess the conflicting religions and even when I would go out anywhere you can feel the stares and you just feel different when in reality you’re not different. You’re not just a piece of cloth on your head,” Afzal said.

When Afzal stopped wearing her hijab people saw her differently. They came to realize she wasn’t so different from them than they thought. Making such a sudden change in appearance can change also how people view you, but in this scenario, it was for the better.

You’re not just a piece of cloth on your head”

— senior Shaista Afzal

“My classmates and friends were just surprised that I looked so much like them,” Afzal said.

Afzal wanted to show that not everyone is perfect and we all have our daily struggles that happen. People would see Afzal and think that she thought she was perfect when in reality she was just like everyone else with her mistakes.

“No one is perfect and like we’re all in high school so we’re still trying to figure out ourselves,” Afzal said.

Advice that she has for people still trying to figure themselves out is to not care what anyone thinks. What other people have to say really doesn’t matter and won’t help in any way.

“I think this is like so cliche but especially now being a senior I think to really not care what people think…you’re trying to figure out who your real friends are and so it’s like really hard to know yourself, but at the end of the day be yourself and it’s gonna impact your future,” Afzal said.

Afzal is grateful for her teachers accepting her and her changes. It made it easier for her to give back to the school. Having people that support you can really influence our lives and motivate us.

Shaista Afzal has a unique story that not a lot of people know about. She is bold and thoughtful of her actions. Her hijab has a certain symbolism to her and she is proud of what it represents. Here at Ripon High, you can seek out the one pearl among the gems who has decided to be brave in her actions and make her own decisions.

Afzal says, “Women are pearls of society so it’s the idea that women can cover it is up to the woman to completely cover it’s their choice.”