Sarah Darwish, a junior student-athlete at St. Francis College who is studying to be a lawyer, is well on her way to a successful international law career after dining with diplomats in the White House.
Majoring in Political Science and minoring in History and Philosophy, Darwish has networked with elected officials, Ambassadors, and high-ranking superiors in our country's Military including the Commander-in-Chief.
Yes, she has indeed rubbed elbows with the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Sarah and her sister, Dania, received an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not too long ago when they were personally invited to the White House. Earlier that year in 2010, both sisters attended a Landmarks Commission hearing regarding the status of the proposed Mosque that would be constructed in Lower Manhattan.
"It was a huge hearing filled with really angry anti-Muslims,” recalls Darwish. “This woman comes to the podium and looks directly at my sister, because she covers and I don't, and says "would you feel comfortable if you knew someone like that was walking around with something [dangerous] under her headscarf. That just blew me away," Darwish added.
In defense for her sister, Sarah's spirited and emotional words in response to the women's statement were the focus of numerous television newscasts that night.
A couple of weeks later, Sarah got a call from a mysterious five-digit phone number. In an earlier interview with St. Francis College's Director of Media Relations, Richard Relkin, Darwish stated: “This guy tells me he's from the White House and he'd like my sister and me to come to dinner during Ramadan” says Darwish who, like the rest of her family, is an American citizen. “Even after we got the invitation, we still didn't know it was for real until we checked with the Interfaith Center of New York and found out they were going to.”
After news of the television reports spread, Paul Monterio - Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement - reached out to the sisters and invited them to an Iftar dinner with President Obama at the White House where less than 100 congressmen, community members, and Ambassadors would be in attendance.
Iftar refers to the evening meal, after sunset, when Muslims break their fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan and often celebrate as a community with people gathering to break their fast together.
Before dinner was served Sarah and Dania were given a tour of the White House. “It was amazing. Walking through the halls and seeing the portraits of the past presidents was very inspiring.”
The Darwish sisters even got a chance to talk to President Obama when he came and sat with them at their table. “He talked to us like we were his own daughters. He was very charismatic. He even offered me advice on how to get an internship at Georgetown University.”
Coming from the Al-Noor School of Brooklyn, a rather small institution of only about 650 students, Darwish feels right at home in the comforts of St. Francis College where the “intimate atmosphere, small classrooms, and relationship between student and teacher” were the deciding factors in her choice to enroll in SFC.
In just three years at the college, Darwish has made a very lasting impactful presence. She has made the Dean's List every semester since her freshman year, previously served as Vice President of the Model United National Club, and is now a current Student Representative of the St. Thomas Moore Pre-Law Society.
Sarah is also a Divison-I swimmer on the Women's Swimming and Diving team at St. Francis as well. “My dad taught me how to swim when I was four years old.”
Her love for the water continued through her childhood and carried over to St. Francis College where she has been swimming competitively for the past three years. “My main event is the freestyle. I'm also good at the breaststroke and backstroke. The butterfly is really hard.”
Upon graduating from St. Francis, Darwish plans to go to Law School. A few Law institutions that will be applied to are Brooklyn Law School, New York University, and Harvard. “I have a high GPA, so it all depends on my LSATS” Sarah said modestly.
Whether it's dining with diplomats, swimming at St. Francis, or watching her favorite film Pineapple Express, Darwish believes in the balance of working hard and having fun.
Sarah and her teammates will be in action Monday, January 30, as St. Francis' Swimming and Diving team look to record their first win of the season as they host Queens College at 6:00pm.