The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

The official student newspaper of Oak Park and River Forest High School

The Trapeze

Leadership spotlight: Leen Alaraj

Ryan Scott
Alaraj playing flag football.

In a remarkable fusion of academic, athletic and civic commitment, senior Leen Alaraj secured a prestigious National Football Foundation Scholarship for the Chicago metropolitan area, embodying a multifaceted commitment to excellence and leadership on and off the field. 

Alaraj, the captain of the girl’s flag football team, was one of three Chicagoland football players chosen for the scholarship, a monetary award to the college of her choice. She was the only female winner this year and just the second in the history of the award, according to a post on Oak Park and River Forest High School’s official Instagram page. Alaraj will be presented with the award and scholarship at a ceremony at Halas Hall this month.

“When I got the nomination kit, there was no one else I thought of but Leen,” said physical education teacher James Geovanes. Her dedication to the sport has been unmistakable, as she was the first girl to join the boy’s tournament flag football team as a sophomore. 

Alaraj wasted no time joining the newly formed girls flag football team her junior year. Geovanes, who appointed her as captain early on, noted her ability to “treat the younger kids and her peers with respect and integrity.” 

“She’s just a natural leader, willing to ask a million questions and volunteer to do the dirty work,” said Geovanes. As the pilot program for the girls’ flag football team started, Alaraj diligently worked towards “making the program strong and successful for the future years,” he added.

For Alaraj, playing for the girls team offered valuable lessons. “You run into scrutiny but learn to persevere when things don’t go your way,” she said. While the road to success is never linear, Alaraj noted the importance of “sticking true to what you want and doing what you need to get there.” 

Balancing the demands of rigorous academics and athletics is undoubtedly challenging. Alaraj, actively involved in flag football and soccer, strives to navigate the highs and lows of high school life. 

Alaraj recognizes the importance of fostering a community where all her peers have a safe space to delve into the beauty of culture and share different perspectives. With senior Micah Nasralla, Alaraj founded the Middle Eastern and North African Student Alliance (MENA). “I wanted my peers to know there’s someone behind them while building strong connections and sharing culture in our community,” she said. 

“She is definitely the most productive person I know,” Nasralla said. “She’s willing to work with people and knows how to pull resources to get stuff done.” Nasralla pointed out Alaraj’s ability to stay positive while “pushing me to be the best person.” 

Nasralla describes Leen as passionate, a quality that explains her success and dynamic involvement in school activities. 

English teacher Daniel Cohen, co-sponsor of MENA with Wafaa Alwawi, is among Alaraj’s mentors. “In many ways, she’s very humble and inclusive,” said Cohen, noting that her “humility and courage altogether made MENA.”

Cohen highlighted Alaraj’s selflessness, noting that she brings food every Tuesday and consistently prioritizes the well-being of others over her own. “At a young age many of us are concerned with self, but she actively thinks of ways to create spaces of welcome and connectedness,” said Cohen. 

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