Student Spotlight: Homa Ikhlassi


Sohie Ryang, Staff Writer

Every Monday morning around 9am, Homa releases her tight grip on her heavy orange bookbag and plops it down next to her desk in her first period class. There, she listens to her favorite teacher, Mr. Rediskey, explain the ins and outs of computer science. But just four years ago, Homa wasn’t even allowed science or math classes in school. Not for any other reason besides the fact that she was a girl. 

Homa, who is the oldest of four, grew up in Ghazni, a rural town in Afghanistan. Homa told me that school was not easy for anyone in Afghanistan. She said to me, “the teachers will beat you if you do not understand their instruction.” But it was especially challenging for young girls and women. Homa and her younger sister, Zainab, weren’t allowed to take any classes that related to math or science. Homa and Zainab had to learn at home with their father, who was a Physics teacher. After third grade, Homa and her family sought refuge in Indonesia. The Taliban had taken over the country of Afghanistan, and it was unsafe to continue to live under their rule. 

At age eight, Homa was forced to pack up her life and seek refuge in a different country where an entirely different language was spoken. Homa, Zainab, her two younger brothers, her mother, father, and grandmother lived in Indonesia for four years before migrating to the United States. Homa’s experience in Indonesia was one that she will never forget. “I miss Indonesia because everyone was just so nice,” Homa told me as she described her experiences there, inside of school and out. Every morning, Homa would wake up well before sunrise and walk two hours to school. “The school was kind of like homeschooling, except we only took language classes. We weren’t allowed to take classes like history, math, or biology,” Homa explained. Homa learned how to proficiently speak three different languages, and at age 16, she is now fluent in four. Her first language is Farsi, but she learned to speak Indonesian, Arabic, and English during her time in Indonesia. 

Homa has carried her passion for language learning to the United States and is now learning a fifth language, French, at Charlottesville High School. It’s been just over four years since Homa and her family settled in Charlottesville, Virginia. Homa speaks favorably about the academic opportunities provided by CHS, emphasizing that “Charlottesville High School has been a good environment to learn and explore different subjects.” After highschool, she plans to study pre-law at either the University of Virginia or George Mason University. Homa aspires to be a public defense attorney so she can “give justice to families that cannot afford an expensive lawyer.” Her interest in the law and defending the rights of people in need derives from her childhood experiences in Afghanistan. As Homa put it, “Growing up in Afghanistan, where women and girls aren’t allowed an education, inspired me to become a lawyer.” 

Homa is one of many students at CHS who come from Afghanistan. Given the extreme obstacles each and every one of these students and their family members have had to overcome to find a safe place to live and access education (this is especially the case for the girls), we should feel inspired by their resilience and be proud to have these amazing people as members of our school community. Homa is determined to help sustain Charlottesville High School’s welcoming environment. Perhaps we can all reflect on what we each might do–in small, everyday ways–to make CHS even warmer and more inclusive.