When Jackie Solis, Merced College coordinator, heard of Malala Yousafzai in the news recently, she knew she had to rally students together to share Malala’s vision.
Yousafzai is a Pakistani education activist. She is famously known for standing up to the rights of education and for women to attend school, especially in an area where the Taliban at times, banned girls from attending school.
In 2012, at the age of 15, she was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. She has survived to tell her story.
“This story reminds us of how fortunate we are here in the U.S. that we have our education,” Solis said. “We should value it and access it.”
On Thursday morning a number of students gathered in the quad area on the Los Banos Campus, held their hands high and shouted “We are Malala.”
“It isn’t political, it isn’t anything like that,” Solis said. “It’s just about supporting education.”
Some professors on campus are teaching about Malala’s story and promoting her vision for women and education.
English professor Susan Kimoto is teaching a segment of Malala in her classes and has been showing video of Malala’s story.
“I’ve been getting a good response,” Kimoto said. “I have been encouraging them to come out.”
Jacqueline Olea, 18, who is in Kimoto’s class said after seeing the video, Malala is her motivation to finish school.
“(Malala) is a fighter,” Olea said. “She’s setting an example for other girls to follow.”
Estefany Hernandez, 18, who is also in Kimoto’s class said this was her first time hearing about Malala and wanted to give Malala support.
“We all have the right to go to school,” Hernandez added. “She was very brave.”
Gregory Cordero, 26, who is a junior-student, said after doing some research with his teacher about Malala’s journey, he wanted to participate to help spread Malala’s message.
“It’s one heck of a journey, what she went through to stand up for what she believes in,” Cordero said. “She had more courage than most of the people that would go through that. I don’t see very many people doing that today.”
Student Senator Gildardo Castillo, 23, helped organize the event by getting his classmates involved to participate at Thursday’s event.
“I felt like we as a community should do something to honor what she is fighting for,” Castillo said. “When I heard of this event, I thought this would be perfect for our tiny community to be part of a global movement.”
Castillo said by holding the event, something the main campus has not done yet, it shows the community is close and can agree on common issues.
“I’m hoping that we can show, not only our surrounding area and Merced County, but to the entire world that her message can take root anywhere across the world,” Castillo said. “We are hoping that education for all women can be encouraged and that we should not be afraid to stand up for our right to be educated.”
Solis said that Malala’s words have touched her to the point where she plans to continue to spread the message and encourages other schools to do the same.
“They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed, and then, out of that silence, came thousands of voices.” --Malala Yousafzai
According to reports, Malala is the youngest person ever to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She has also written a book entitled, “I am Malala: The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.”