Sawaf chasing UN aspirations, fuelled by heritage


Yaamini Jois

Coppell High School junior Hana Sawaf’s background inspired her to join debate and journalism, propelling her towards a career in international relations. Sawaf’s interests stem from her Syrian-American heritage.

Yaamini Jois, CHS9 Editor

Coppell High School junior, debate student and student journalist Hana Sawaf can pinpoint one main thing that “makes her heart race” about digital journalism: the byline. 

“Everytime I see the title of my article, and ‘by Hana Sawaf’, I get so excited,” Sawaf said. “It makes my whole day: I really like having the opportunity and the platform to talk about the things that I’m passionate about, which goes back to why I’m in [speech and debate]. To put it simply: I want to talk about what I want to talk about, and I want people to listen to me.”

Sawaf has been competing in oratory speech since the start of the year and soon carved a path in journalism after joining political nonprofit news organization, Pasquines, as a federal affairs intern.

To further involve herself in her interests, Sawaf opted to take International Baccalaureate courses over Advanced Placement courses. In addition to studying international relations, Sawaf also harbors a passion for languages and cultures, taking both AP and IB Spanish in her junior year.

“She’s one of the most interested students I’ve seen in my career,” IB Spanish teacher Emily Holmes said. “She cares a lot about the differences between languages and is always doing everything she can to be a better student in class.”

Yet all her interests can be traced back to her heritage as a Syrian-American in a family of Syrian immigrants. Sawaf learned about the Syrian Civil War at a young age, sparking an interest in diplomacy and negotiations between countries.

“Hana is one of the most motivated people I know, even when she’s faced with any failures,” CHS junior debate student Akshita Krishnan said. “She’s incredibly in tune to her identity, and her interest in international relations ties in well with her background for the speeches she writes and presents competitively as well.”

Sawaf joined Coppell Speech and Debate as a junior and competes weekly in oratory competitions, which requires her to pick a topic to write about and present a speech to judges. She attributes her willingness to join as a result of wanting to grow away from the “shy” child she was and “branch out.”

“I’m there to talk about what’s important to me, whether it be immigrants’ rights, refugees’ rights or the struggles of assimilation to immigrants,” Sawaf said. “I found my voice by writing about what I knew I was passionate about. Once I get bored, I know the judges will get bored.”

As a journalist, Sawaf focuses on issues in the Middle East to amplify lesser-known issues within a Western community.

As a result of her experience, Sawaf’s current passion project is creating and leading Project Sahafiya, a digital female-led newspaper dedicated to current events that take place in the Middle East.

“By giving female citizen journalists an opportunity to talk about the Middle East, we could bridge the gap,” Sawaf said. 

Outside of school, Sawaf is also a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) officer for the Red Cross. After her active work and enthusiasm for previous Red Cross projects, Sawaf was chosen to be the DEI officer for her inclusive perspectives, articulate manner of speaking and initiative during student-led projects.

Sawaf also helps the Sickle Cell Initiative to host blood drives in African-American communities to raise awareness about sickle cell disease in spaces where the disease is most prominent. Sawaf’s next project for the Red Cross is Buddies for Red Cross, in which the Red Cross will partner with students with learning disabilities from regional Independent School Districts to mentor the students.

“She’s always forming new connections with different communities, and she makes an effort to reach out and understand them,” Red Cross Youth Services Executive Board President Rohan Jupelly said. “It carries over well into international relations and law. [Her background] makes her aware of people’s motivations. She’s focused on inclusivity and accessibility, which are apparent in her projects.”

If each activity Sawaf dedicates time to is one more rung on the ladder, Sawaf aims to climb all the way to the United Nations. 

“It might be an unlikely dream or a long shot, but that’s what I’ve been working towards and will continue to do so,” Sawaf said.

Follow Yaamini (@yjois12) and @CHSCampusNews on Twitter.