Mah Noor, 2022 BMCC valedictorian, will major in cell biology at Yale University. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib
This year, the class valedictorian for Borough of Manhattan Community College is Mah Nour. Yale University has accepted 19-year-old Noor for next fall and will offer a scholarship that will pay almost all of his $80,000 annual tuition. At Yale, she will specialize in cellular molecular biology and developmental biology. The first in her family to attend college, Noor plans to pursue a career as a pediatric surgeon. During his two years at BMCC, Noor maintained a perfect grade point average of 4.0 while participating in cell biology research under the mentorship of science professor Alexander Gosslau. She has also given remote English lessons to low-income Saudi children.
Noor spent most of his early childhood in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. But in 6th grade, she moved with her parents to their native Pakistan. Six years later, in 2020, the family moved back to New York and Noor enrolled in BMCC.
In an interview with the Trib, Noor spoke about the lives of women in Pakistan and her desire to be an example for others.
I think I only went out with friends once or twice in six years when I was living in Pakistan. The rest of the time I was with my family. When I came here I thought, Wow, that’s how it is, have the opportunity to explore. After years of being locked up in a house, this came as a nice surprise.
Even though we are making progress in Pakistan, women are still struggling. We still have cases where 13 year olds are married to landlords, where a woman cannot leave the house without her husband’s permission and is not allowed to talk to men who are not a member of the family. Often girls are seen as burdens.
When people get together, the men and women eat separately and after dinner the women go to their own room to talk. After I turned 16, I was allowed to join them for the first time. That’s when I found out what Pakistani women have to deal with. They were talking about their husbands, or their brother-in-law or their mother-in-law. How harshly and unfairly they were treated. How they are expected to cook, clean and be slaves in the house. A husband slapped his wife who forgot to pay a caterer for milk. She was laughing. She said, “I’ll never borrow again, he slapped me so hard.”
I was so shocked. I will never forget that. The culture may have a way of manipulating its victims, making them believe that’s all they’re supposed to expect in life. It even passed to my generation. Boys my age, because they’re not the oppressed, they’re the oppressors. Their mothers pampered them and they were brought up to believe that the way their fathers treated their mothers was right and they continue. Even though we’re both educated and know it’s wrong, we normalize it.
When I came here and had the opportunity to learn and be part of an equal society, I realized that everything I was taught was not only wrong, but it was a way of making victims of women.
As one of our women said that night, “Things will be different for my daughter. She will study and she will learn. She will never have to cross what I have.
I had the privilege of being educated, of understanding that what is being done there is wrong. I want to change this narrative. I want my education to not only be a step forward for me but for other women in my culture.