ISSUE #1 - DEC 2019

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The Universal Academy of Florida Newsletter, The Falcon Forum, is elated to present you with the very first issue of the 2019-2020 school year. Take a look inside and see how well UAF is thriving!



New Interim Principal Highlight

Teachers Spotlight

Guidance Counselor Spotlight

New Social Emotional Counselor

New Administrative Assistant Interview

Morning Assemblies

Senior Night (Volleyball)


Field Trips

Library Happenings


New Electronic Addition

Short Story




By: Rand Shahrour

Entering the high school building, you will find UAF’s very own Sr. Pilar Saad, standing at the second door to the left and enthusiastically leading her wide variety of social studies classes. Sr. Pilar has been a cherished UAF teacher since she joined the school in 2002, making 2020 her eighteenth and final year teaching at UAF. When I asked her why she was deciding to retire this year, she laughed and responded, “It was time! I've been sacrificing time away from family and other projects.” Sr. Pilar has taught countless students, some of whom she has seen return as UAF teachers themselves. She has also seen the school through massive changes throughout her years, changes like an increase in enrollment, doubling in size, the start of AP classes, and the expansion of sports for both girls and boys. “Imagine, all of high school was in building C! We are now number 12 in private schools, ahead of my Tampa Catholic High school, which has been around since the 1960s! So I think we have come a long way despite the limited resources and low tuition. We have to pat ourselves on the back for doing so well in such a short period of time.” Sr. Pilar has taught 8th Grade US History, 9th Grade Economics and Government, and since 2008, she has taught the AP histories, including AP World History and AP US history. Sr. Pilar was also the first to teach certain subjects at UAF, introducing AP Comparative Government last year, and Debate Honors this year. Although she found it a little challenging to teach new subjects, she explained that she was lucky to be able to go through incredible workshop training that helped her learn how to teach these classes in an engaging and effective manner. Moreover, Sr. Pilar excitedly reported that she had gotten her first 100% passing rate in AP Comparative Government last year, a difficult task to accomplish. When asked which subject had been her favorite to teach, she replied, “All of them.”

Sr. Pilar had liked the idea of being at the same school as her children. She had taught at AYA for 10 years and before that, she was a teacher in a private Montessori School.

“I decided to become a teacher when I had my own children.” she states, “I was fascinated by the way they learned and developed.” For the past 27 years, Sr. Pilar has been very committed to the mission of producing Islamic scholars, which was what had brought her to AYA and UAF. “I put my heart and soul into it,'' she explains. When I asked her what she would miss the most, she pointed to the students and teachers, as well as the heartfelt community environment she had felt at UAF.

“What is next for you?” I further asked.

“I am taking care of my mom, I want to write a book, be more civically engaged, and spend more time with my kids and grandkids.” She laughs and adds, “Oh! And travel outside of the high season.”

“Any final advice for teachers and students?”

“For teachers, I just say keep the students as your number one priority. Be firm, consistent, but gentle. As for students, strive for excellence.”

Sr. Pilar describes having had wonderful memories at UAF, but particularly points to a few, including the trips to Spain and Italy that she had made possible for the school, the moment her students finished their AP exams and celebrated with history cakes, as well as a specific memory of after school tutoring, where she and the current seniors were crying from laughter because of how tired they were.

“What would students be surprised to find out about you?”

“Well, I love to ride horses, and I am a poet and I don’t know it!”

May Allah (SWT) bless our Sr. Pilar, who has been a light for our school, and may He reward her for all her hard work and perseverance throughout her years at UAF.


New Interim Principal Highlight

By: Tahreem Cheema

This year we have a new interim principal, Sr. Eman Elkholy. She has been in the educational field for twelve years now. Her work as a high school teacher eventually led her to go back to graduate school and earn her Masters in Educational Leadership.

After coming to Florida a year and a half ago, she enrolled her kids in UAF. This is when she learned of the reputation of the school and the high standards it upheld. These factors played a major role when it came to her decision to join UAF’s team of dedicated teachers and administrators. Another factor, along with the school’s reputation, was, in fact, the encouragement given to her by a neighbor to apply.

Now, here she is as UAF’s interim principal, making an incredibly positive impact on our school. Sr. Eman is extremely passionate about the students and it truly shows. Every Wednesday her energetic voice goes off on the intercom, beckoning the elementary students to gather in the courtyard so that they can recognize the Barakah Booster of the Week, a student who shows amazing Islamic and academic behavior. She makes the announcement with such enthusiasm that the children cannot help but jump up with excitement with her. Needless to say, the students love her.

When asked about Sr. Eman, a student in fourth grade said: “She always plays games with us until the bell rings and when things go wrong, she always makes them right".

Also, needless to say, Sr. Eman loves the students back. When asked about a goal she has for this year and future years, she responded with:

“I envision my students to not only be academically successful but socially, emotionally and spiritually healthy as well. I love teaching them how to have awareness of Allah SWT anywhere and everywhere they go. I would love to educate the whole child so they are wholesome human beings, ready to tackle the world when they leave UAF."

When asked about how it feels to take on this leadership role as interim principal, she said: “Typically, it's a mix of feeling excited and overwhelmed. When I first joined, all of my focus was on Upper Elementary. All of a sudden, I'm learning so much more about the entire school, inside and out of it at such a fast pace. I couldn't have done it without the support of my team and the kind words of encouragement from many parents.” She plans to make positive changes for as long as she may serve.

To end, we had some other pretty...interesting questions. One was if she puts milk before her cereal for breakfast. Thankfully, she chose the right answer, stating, “I pour the cereal before the milk. The ratio of the milk must be lower than the cereal.” We also asked her what fandoms she follows, like Marvel or DC. She answered above all expectations, with Mary Poppins. Another fun fact is that one of her hobbies from many years ago while living in New Jersey, was working as a professional pastry chef. Specializing in wedding cakes, she enjoyed the job since she was always getting ready for a happy occasion and ensuring customer satisfaction.

That’s it for this interview. Be sure to keep an eye out for Sr. Eman Elkholy, the newest but wonderfully impactful and dedicated interim principal.


Teachers Spotlight

By: Serene Masri

This year UAF has been blessed to welcome a handful of wonderful new teachers who carry a breathtaking passion for their jobs. These teachers truly care about the subjects they are teaching and the knowledge they are passing onto their students, and the one thing these teachers care more about than the subject itself is the students they have quickly formed a close bond with, putting all of their energy into composing an engaging and fun class for their students. In this edition of the newsletter, we will be introducing two of UAF’s newest staff members: Sr. Ameena Khan and Sr. Lina Abuimaish.
Sr. Ameena Khan has been teaching informally for a number of years but started teaching art formally in 2014 at the American Youth Academy. She took a break from teaching in 2017 when her daughter Layla was born, and then joined UAF in 2019 as the Visual Arts teacher for Kindergarten through Eighth grade. Sr. Ameena has always been incredibly passionate about the visual arts which in part led her to wanting to be a teacher in the subject. But the main motivation for her when it came to teaching the Visual Arts class at UAF was her love for the innocence, joy, and wonder that children naturally carry with them, a wonder that often shines through in a child’s art. As such it only made sense that when given a chance to teach what she loves to people that she adores, she would gladly grasp the opportunity with eager hands. Sr. Ameena has loved teaching at UAF, looking forward to coming to school every day, a feeling she describes as rare and priceless. She had found the administration to be extremely supportive, her colleagues to be equally wonderful and inspiring people, and the campus to be breathtakingly beautiful, matching the spirit of the students and the school as a whole, all of these things only adding onto all of the positive emotions she feels when coming to school, eager to see her students and help them foster a passion for art. A little fun fact about Sr. Ameena is that though she has lived in Florida her entire life she is deathly afraid of sharks and as such definitely does not enjoy going to the beach.
Sr. Lina Abuimaish was originally a learning coach at Hifz Academy, teaching English and Social Studies, each for one year, respectively. Sr. Lina decided to come teach at UAF because she has always wanted to return to the school she considered to be family, her parents having been a founding family of UAF. She, herself, attended UAF from Pre-K to Second grade and all of her siblings had graduated from UAF. Considering all of this, it was only logical for her to take the opportunity when it presented itself, and she is now immensely enjoying teaching AP Psychology at UAF. She is extremely passionate about Psychology and finds it of great importance to spread awareness on the subject of psychology and get rid of any misconceptions people may have. She also believes it is important for students to be able to correlate the things they learn in psychology to Islam, as many of the prophet’s teachings route back to psychology, and see their interconnected relationship, rather than seeing them as being two separate or contradictory things. She hopes by effectively teaching psychology and engaging the students with the subject, taboo issues in the Islamic community will no longer be overlooked, but rather openly talked about.

Sr. Lina’s overall experience at UAF has been a positive one and she has found herself enjoying the experience so far. She has especially enjoyed UAF’s students and having to work hard to build a strong relationship with them, built on mutual trust and respect. A fun fact about Sr. Lina is that she grew up on a farm with red horses her entire life, graduated from USF at the ripe old age of nineteen, and has six kids that she has fostered and adopted.


Guidance Counselor Spotlight

By: Atqiya Fairooz

As students work hard to improve academically and prepare themselves for college, they sometimes may become lost or confused when going through the process. This is where Sr. Hannan Danon, our amazing Guidance Counselor, comes into the picture.

Sr. Hannan Danon is one of UAF’s most dedicated staff members. She is a Guidance Counselor for UAF’s high schoolers and is also the National Honors Society’s new Advisor. Her journey through UAF began in 2007 when she enrolled as an eighth-grade student. She immediately formed a love for the close-knit family feel that UAF had and the warm, comforting environment UAF created for its students. After completing her undergraduate program, there miraculously was an opening for a receptionist position at UAF and she saw this as a sign to return. As UAF’s receptionist, she gained experience from interacting with students, staff members, and parents. In fact, her job as a receptionist further encouraged her to become involved with the students. Her incredible passion to help students drove her to complete her Masters in Education and before she knew it, she became UAF’s resident guidance counselor.

Now, you can find her on campus fulfilling her passion for helping the students. She works countless hours addressing students’ questions, concerns, and more. Her dedication to the betterment of students’ experience at UAF has also prompted her to become NHS’s advisor as well, where she helps run the prestigious club. Her sincere love for students and the relationships she’s formed with many of the staff members at UAF encourages her to come to work every day and do what she enjoys.

Alhamdulillah, we are so grateful to have such a hardworking and genuine guidance counselor who students can depend on and are comfortable with. Sr. Hannan is the epitome of not only a hard working guidance counselor but also a friend of the students. You can always find students rushing with questions and stories to her office because of her welcoming nature. She has always been available for the students at UAF and almost all the students can agree that they can always rely on Sr. Hannan. One of UAF’s seniors has said, “I’m a senior and this is my last year at UAF. I’ll miss many things when I leave, but I’m sure I’ll miss Sr. Hannan tremendously. She was like an older sister who guided me through my high school turmoils and I’m glad UAF students will continue to have her to depend on. She’s truly one of the gems of UAF.”


New Social Emotional Counselor

By: Serene Masri & Rand Shahrour

UAF has recently welcomed another member to their staff. This honored member is none other than Dr. Julie Barakat, the new social and emotional counselor for students, a position that UAF added this year. Prior to taking her position at UAF, Dr. Julie was a social and emotional counselor at the Islamic Academy of New England in Massachusetts, receiving her masters in social work in 1984 at Boston University. She is from Boston, Massachusetts, and though she spends the majority of her year in Florida she prefers to say that she works in Florida and lives in Massachusetts because she goes home twice a month and that is where her family is.

Dr. Julie’s role at UAF is to take a look at how students are functioning in terms of their wellness, and to look at the factors that may impact their learning day, for example: anxiety, depression, etc. She tries to assist these students through counseling and, in some cases, meeting with the parents or teachers to get a sense of how to best support the students so that they can have the best learning day and overall school experience possible, while also maintaining their mental and physical health, which go hand in hand.

When asked about the challenges she faces as UAF’s first social and emotional counselor she portrays a very optimistic outlook, describing challenges, such as building up a department for social and emotional learning, communicating with parents, and upholding UAF policies, as opportunities that allow her to be creative and give her the opportunity to develop a new beneficial program. Dr. Julie sees her role here as not just a student counselor but as one who can develop a foundation for this school, one that can be integrated in all the classrooms at UAF. This doesn't just mean pulling kids out and counseling them, but also helping teachers figure out strategies in their classrooms that could help the students mentally, emotionally, and academically. Ultimately, Dr. Julie wants to help students not only feel happy, but like they belong. Overall Dr. Julie’s philosophy towards life is to make everyday count, which she feels she does when she comes to work everyday to help and support the students.

When asked about her greatest advice to teachers and students, she advised the teachers to remember to put themselves in the shoes of the students, and she advised the students to never fear failure, as failure is the first step to success. With this advice there is no question regarding how passionate Dr. Julie is about her job. Towards the beginning of the year Dr. Julie held several anti-bullying presentations where she informed students on what bullying is, the different forms of bullying, when and where it happens, and how to stop being a bystander when someone is being bullied. The main point she wanted to make during this presentation was that anybody who was being bullied could take control and should not accept their status as a victim, getting help from a friend or administrator to deal with the bully. The bullying presentation was a huge success, and we can see how much the students took them to heart, with their handmade anti-bullying posters all over the school, each one unique in their own way, and all equally heartfelt.


New Administrative Assistant Interview

By: Asma Abdallah

When Sr. Bonnie was asked to state a few facts about herself, Sr. Urooj chimed in on the interview, stating enthusiastically that Sr. Bonnie is “the glitter of our office.” Sr. Bonnie is a great asset to the UAF faculty. Born and raised in Arkansas, she’s a mother of 4, convert Muslim, and is currently one of the wonderful administrative assistants at UAF.

A Muslim for 18 years, she reverted to Islam because of the concept of Tawheed (Oneness of Allah) and Prophet Ayyub’s story that sparked her interest in the religion and eventually led to her conversion.

What drew her to UAF was her love for the warm and welcoming community and environment, and her love for being surrounded by kids. Sr. Bonnie was a substitute in the former school year and has taken up the position of Administrative Assistant this year. Sr. Bonnie’s favorite part of her job is making crafts that can be decorated around the office and used for the banquet and other events. Her work ranges from answering phones, professional development, awards, assisting teachers, covering the front desk, to almost anything that has to be done in the office alongside Sr. Theresa, Sr. Syeda and Sr. Urooj, the office crew.

Interests Sr. Bonnie pursues outside of work are crafting, watching movies and Netflix, dancing, as well as volunteering. She’s also a full time “Muber,” a term she coined for herself as a mother who drives her kids to places. Sr. Bonnie is passionate about volunteering as she was the service unit manager for girl scouts and managed her son’s soccer team.

To conclude the interview, my favorite response of hers was, “I live one day at a time,” which proves how easy-going yet dedicated Sr. Bonnie is. We’re blessed to have her become a part of UAF. Her spirit, dedication, and hard work does not go unnoticed!


Morning Assemblies

By: Atqiya Fairooz

It is Wednesday morning and students are about to start their day right with Sr. Ezdehar’s spirit boosting weekly morning assemblies. They usually begin with a performance by a specific class with the purpose of educating the other students in an Islamic lesson. Then the Barakah Booster of the Week is chosen from each class and given the Barakah Booster Award along with a goodie bag to award their academic efforts and Islamic behavior. Students are motivated to continue becoming the best version of themselves and to aim high. After all, having your achievements acknowledged by your teachers and peers, and knowing you made your parents proud is a great encouragement for any student!

When asked what the students enjoyed the most about these Wednesday morning assemblies, a 2nd grader said, “I got to sing the ‘Allah Made Everything’ Song in front of everybody with my friends! We got to teach everybody the different types of animals Allah created.”

Alhamdulillah UAF is a large school that caters to all of its students. While the elementary students enjoy their weekly Wednesday assemblies, the secondary students are able to benefit from the beautiful recitation of Surah Al-Kahf on Friday mornings. Students are able to follow along with the reciter and recite the verses of the surah—allowing everyone to receive ajar and protection in this world. It creates a spiritual and uplifting atmosphere for the students and staff, emphasizing the importance of the remembrance of Allah throughout the day. Truly, these Friday morning assemblies are a great start to one’s day and help encourage an Islamic mindset for Jummah.


Senior Night (Volleyball)

By: Asma Abdallah

Senior night is when the final game of a certain sport season takes place; it is a special night dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the achievements and effort, put forth by the soon to be graduating seniors of the team, towards the sport. This year, the first senior night took place on September 30 during one of the last home games of the volleyball season, concluding the high school careers of the senior volleyball players.

Before the game began, a ceremony was held honoring the team’s seniors. Each senior player was announced for recognition and to congratulate them on their success throughout the years. Posters with sweet messages were given to every senior as the crowd cheered on. The court was decked out with decorations to support the seniors: Lilya Malkieh, Jenene Hasan, Ayat Masalma, and Ayah Simrin.

Afterward, the volleyball game began, and the moments of smiles and laughter were replaced with intense and resolute faces. The atmosphere in the room was filled with energy. The Lady Falcons brought their a-game to the court and gave it their all for one last battle. Senior night ended off on an absolutely astounding note when the girls successfully won the game.

When asked about the night, Jenene Hasan stated that it was undoubtedly a memorable moment for her, and it really hit her when she realized it was indeed the last volleyball season for her. Another senior, Ayat Masalma, had been injured and unfortunately couldn’t participate in the last few games, however, “merely being there to support my team was enough for me.” Her sister and teammate, Malak, believes the most memorable moment of the night was escorting her sister onto the court.

What a great way to cherish a bittersweet moment. We bid you farewell Seniors!



By: Atqiya Fairooz & Sabrina Atiq

Most people can agree that a student’s academic studies and pursuits are extremely important, but there is more to school than just the academic aspects. Clubs provide an opportunity for students to get involved in other extracurriculars, find things they are great at outside of academics, and pursue their passions or interests. Many students can agree that a vital part of their school life had included participating in clubs, which gifted them with some of their best memories. Friendships, leadership skills, and more are gained when a student gets involved in clubs and branches out, gaining valuable experience that will stay with them for life. Moreover, clubs can be an outlet for students to express themselves in different ways and to participate in the betterment of their community. Hence, UAF offers a variety of in-school clubs for its students, which include the National Honor Society, the Humanitarian Outreach Committee, Booster Club, Student Council, Newsletter, and Environmental Committee. This year, UAF has also implemented after-school clubs to cater to elementary and middle school students as well! Among those currently provided are Frisbee, Art, American Sign Language (ASL), Photography, STEM Robotics, and both Arabic and English Drama.

These extensions have fortunately appealed to a great number of students and have evidently served as a major boost to the students’ sense of competitiveness and motivation. Through discussing what the students have accomplished thus far, it is clear that the clubs have proved effective in engaging UAF students with new opportunities and exposure. In preparing them for college life, these clubs supply them with experiences in aspects distinct from what they're accustomed to learning at school. In the coming years, inshallah, UAF shall continue to build upon these clubs to supply students with even more opportunities.




Field Trips

By: Ayah Tarabishy

PreK Field Trip to Glazer Museum

Known as one of Tampa’s top attractions for kids, the Glazer Children’s Museum was PreK’s next adventure. The museum consists of a wide variety of engaging exhibits including the Engineer’s Workshop, the Firehouse, the Farm, Publix, the Twinkle Stars Theater, and much more! The exhibits allow children to understand the world around them and experience it through hands-on activities. Some exhibits, such as The Publix exhibit, as well as the Central Park exhibit, allow the children a window into some of the daily tasks that come with being an adult such as banking and shopping. Other exhibits entertain students with artwork and architecture such as the Artsmart and Forts Exhibit. Throughout each and every exhibit, the children are able to let their imaginations go above and beyond through hands-on experiences that are often missing in classrooms, while also learning useful skills that are bound to be beneficial later in life. This field trip may be forgotten by UAF’s pint-sized PreKindergarteners, however, the skills they learned from it will be remembered for years to come.

Kindergarten Field Trip to ISTABA Library

It was October 18th, 2019 when UAF’s intellectual Kindergartners journeyed into the deep depths of where all knowledge often originates. It was at ISTABA’s library that the students learned to appreciate knowledge in order to become better people. They learned to take advantage of the many resources the library provides, especially the books regarding the Seerah, Hadeeth, and other lessons of Islam. Sr. Zainab Sultan was the host for this incredible event, and she proceeded to present a variety of engaging activities to the children- nasheed, a puppet show, a presentation on the functions of the brain, and playing with a parachute- that would help them better understand and learn about their religion. The students came back with a greater appreciation of the deen and learning. They will, inshallah, always look back to the ISTABA library as a wonderful source of knowledge.

2nd Grade Field Trip to Horse Power for Kids

It was a rowdy day at Horse Power for Kids when UAF’s 2nd-grade cowgirls and cowboys roamed the plains. The sun was shining and every little boy and girl was able to ride on an extraordinary pony. Not only that, they had the wonderful opportunity to physically interact with many other animals. They fed goats, pet rabbits, and held guinea pigs which allowed a majority of the students to overcome many of their fears in regard to different animals. The students also enjoyed an exciting maze which they made their way out of and were equally amused by the fascinating train ride around the pond where they were able to view even more animals that Horse Power for Kids had saved from a variety of unfortunate circumstances. The students had a wonderful time engaging physically in accordance with their science curriculum. While the students were learning about animals, their habitats, and adaptations at school, during the field trip they were able to actually interact with different animals, giving them a greater understanding of the material.

4th Grade Field Trip to Tampa Bay History Center

It was October 8th, 2019 when the Universal Academy of Florida sent its fourth-grade historians to discover the incredible past of Tampa Bay. They studied the stories of conquerors, natives, and the interactions between different groups of people. “We saw things like tools people used to use to hunt and build stuff” described 4th grader Zeena Abdulfattah. They were able to engage hands-on with ancient appliances and materials provided at the center. It was of great benefit to the students as they were able to see what they had been learning in their Social Studies Class, come to life.

5th Grade Field Trip to Wonderworks

The place seemed dilapidated, UAF’s 5th-grade students thought to themselves as they passed by the one and only upside-down building known to Florida. As a wonderful source of “edutainment,” the 5th-grade teachers thought that visiting Wonderworks would be a great opportunity for students to learn and practice their skills in physics, math, and space science and simultaneously have the time of their lives. As the park phrases it, “Let your imagination run wild!” was how the field trip went about. “I tried hurricane simulators. They blow wind at you and see how strong hurricanes are.” describes 5th grader Irfan Mamoun. The students were able to increase their knowledge of fascinating scientific concepts such as natural disasters, light and sound, space technology, and much more by working hands-on with the many captivating exhibits. November 19th will surely be remembered as an awesome day among 2019-2020’s 5th-grade students!


Library Happenings

By: Malak Abdulfattah

Every year our library has a vast variety of interesting competitions and events. This semester the library had a competition between the second grade and fifth-grade classes where students decorated tissue boxes based on their favorite book. The directions were simple; whoever would like to participate, would get a tissue box any size and decorate the outside with their favorite book, this could be a picture book or a chapter book. Once they decorated the box with the theme of their favorite book, they would be put on display, and the teachers and librarian would vote for the most creative boxes. There were a total of 32 participants and initially there were only going to be 10 winners but a few tied so instead there were 15. The winners each received a $10 gift certificate to be used at the Book Fair towards books, with those placing in second and third place winning $5 gift certificates, and the rest who participated receiving $1 gift certificates.

On October 28th, 2019 the annual Fall Book Fair began, hosted by our School Librarian Sr. Maria. This is her ninth time hosting the Book Fair, Mashallah, and she has yet to disappoint with this year’s incredible theme of Arctic Adventure "Snow Much to Read!". You could see the kids rushing in to buy as many books as they could carry, the Book Fair holding books for all types of different interests. Not only does the Book Fair have a variety of books, covering all genres, it also hosted a raffle and a "Guess How Many Snowballs" competition. For every $10 spent you were able to enter a ticket to the raffle drawing, and the winner of the “Guess How Many Snowballs” competition was Sana Fayiz in 6A with a guess of 241, strikingly close to the correct number of 240 snowballs. The winner of the raffle was Aydin Hakim in 3A. When asked what was her overall experience, Sr.Maria said, “My overall experience with the fair is that the kids really enjoyed themselves. We had a special guest, Clifford the Big Red Dog visiting for an entire week, the kid’s excitement and smiles were priceless. I am especially thankful for the volunteer support and the parents who are involved in shaping their child's reading habits, knowing that reading for pleasure inside and outside of school has real and long-lasting benefits. I am happy to announce that we were able to increase our sales by 14% compared to last Fall's book fair. It is this support that helps us buy books for our school and classroom libraries”. As one can see the Fall Book Fair had an incredible turnout this year, with many students showing interest in not just the games and raffles, but also in the books themselves. For all the students who missed the Book Fair this semester, be on the lookout for the Spring Book Fair and stay tuned for more Library Happenings such as our Library Leaders in our next edition.



By: Nuzat Indawala & Vaniza Atiq

Here at UAF, we take athletics very seriously. The school offers a series of sports for students to partake in. The list includes varsity basketball, junior varsity basketball, middle school basketball, high school soccer, middle school soccer, varsity volleyball for girls, and even frisbee. Br Wael, the coach for the boys' junior varsity and varsity soccer team, stated that starting this year, the athletic teams he coaches will try to work together and be more united when playing. Last year, the boy’s junior varsity soccer team won 11 out of 12 games, while the varsity boys soccer team won 19 out of 23 games. Insha'Allah, by implementing Br. Wael's plan, he's hoping to win more games and achieve even better than last year, while obviously still maintaining the mentality of having good sportsmanship and loads of fun. Br.Wael’s interest in finding rules to improve his players and their relationship on the field can also be seen in UAF coaches of different sports teams who are also implementing their own new rules to hopefully create a much better athletic year.

The boy’s JV soccer team had their first game on the 15th of November and have begun practicing intensively to guarantee a great season. In the girls' varsity soccer team for tryouts, even though they accepted everyone who tried out for the team, the players still had to undergo numerous exercises to see if they are capable to play in the game.

The basketball team has also recently started and is already doing fantastically. On November 11 the middle school junior varsity basketball team had their first win. The volleyball season for the girls has sadly come to an end. However, alhamdulillah all of the players worked extremely hard and had several wins.

Sports are such an important part of the high school experience. Helping students find a healthy outlet and passion outside of the stressful academic year is crucial. Therefore, let's all show our support to UAF’s incredible athletes by continuing to show up to games and support them in the stands!


New Electronic Addition

By: Vaniza Atiq

At the beginning of the school year, the students were blessed with amazing news: They were getting Chromebooks! As a fellow student, I can wholeheartedly say that having Chromebooks has brought us nothing but ease. Parents and educators are always looking for new learning tools to help children reach their academic potential, and a recent study suggests that a basic laptop could be such a tool.

Many parents are against the use of laptops in school as it is seen as unprofessional and useless, but little do they know that the implementation of Chromebooks has improved our school life for the better. Along with the laptops come several benefits, including reduced paper usage, more efficient and detailed note-taking, and faster writing and editing.

UAF strives to go paperless in the upcoming years and laptops hold a major role in that goal. Teachers can easily send students papers and worksheets rather than printing out several copies per student. As Muslims, we should care deeply for the Earth, as it is one of Allah’s many creations. UAF has reduced paper usage by a great percent with the purchase of Chromebooks. It is also easier to access school-related articles on our Chromebooks, such as finding textbooks and other necessary reading materials for class right here on our laptops.

As we enter our high school years, the workload gets heavier and there is more to bear. The presence of Chromebooks has allowed us to draft essays and reflections in class with the teacher’s guidance. It benefits all our subjects- for Quran, we listen to our surahs, for science we draft notes and for math, we can access practice questions on websites such as IXL and MathExcel. With a laptop, we are not limited to our teacher’s thoughts and teachings; we can easily search up other opinions and find new resources.

Another good reason for the Chromebooks is that they provide electronic access to students who may not have accessories to the internet outside of school, for whatever reason. With the presence of Chromebooks, this problem fades away. It also eases communication between students and teachers. We can directly email teachers’ questions on assignments and get a fast response. Many students are fast typers but slow writers. This combination is very common, and writing usually slows down students. With Chromebooks, students can easily record, edit, and organize their classroom discussions, as it is much easier to google and copy-paste images on a document than to draw out the entire process in their notebooks, not paying attention to the rest of what the teacher is saying. Chromebooks also make it easier for students’ notes to stay organized, this is especially true for students who may have messy handwriting or have a tendency to doodle in class.

As one can see there is much evidence to support UAF’s decision to implement Chromebooks into academics. Chromebooks have successfully served to make teaching and learning more effective, bettering the students’ academic prowess and their interest in learning; certainty no one is more pleased with the introduction of the Chromebooks than the students themselves.


Short Story

By: Tahreem Cheema

Three friends gathered around a fire after several years of walking their own paths. One, an author of many novels where a reader remained lost in the world she described with only words. The second, a poet who shared his emotions and tall tales through his rhymes. The third, a wanderer still unsure of what he wished to pursue despite trying nearly everything.

...The Story Begins...

I wrapped the thin coat tighter around my shoulders as a frigid breeze brushed past. The log I sat on was damp and the wind howled as if it were Winter. The moon hung in the darkened sky, accompanied by the companionship of the stars. I knew better than to complain, for I was in the presence of greatness while I was merely a simple student. Greatness that wore warm fur coats and a student that wore nothing more than a thin shirt and threadbare coat.

“Ca-Can someone light a fire?” I asked with chattering teeth. Ezra, the great poet of the Westside, scoffed but did so anyway. With a strike of a pebble against his sword, a spark kindled a fire in the stone pit of dead leaves and small twigs.

“Seeing that I’m the oldest, you two should be doing these things for me. Not the other way around.” Ezra took a seat on the mossy log next to mine with a sigh, as if he had just completed such a difficult task. “But since I am such an amazing friend, I wouldn’t put such a burden on you.”

I couldn’t help but smile. Nice to know his attitude hasn’t changed after all these years. Cassandra, the fabled author of the North, was occupied by a journal in her lap. She continued to scribble down word after word onto the aged pages, paying no attention to anything around her.

“Cass? Cass?” Ezra kept going until she shot him an annoyed glance. “I believe it’s time we get this get-together started.”

“Well then, maybe you should begin since you are the oldest of course.” Cass, as she did in the years before, sarcastically raised her voice in awe. Ezra was caught off guard and fumbled over his words.

“Well...ok…” He cleared his throat and adjusted the collar of his beige dress shirt in a fancy fashion. “Exactly five years ago, we three friends met on the night before we would diverge and walk our own paths alone in this exact spot.

We swore to meet back here on the 18th of April to share our accomplishments with each other and reminisce of the days of old.”

“Yes, we already know,” Cass mumbled as she carefully closed the journal and placed it in a leather satchel.

“Fine then, let us begin. I, Ezra Morrison, have become a famed poet on the Western ports where culture thrives in the port cities,” he declared with great pride. “My poems have been shared across the world, even pirates these days recite them on their voyages. After this meeting, I plan to head east and earn a name there as well. Okay, Cass, your turn.”

“I, Cassandra Eclipso, have become a legend written in history up North. My novels have caught the attention of both travelers and natives. My stories have been said to capture a reader and cause them to get lost in a never-ending world.” Cass tucked a lock of her red hair back into the depths of her hood. “My characters are said to feel so real, that readers see them as not fiction but as friends. I, too, plan to head south and share my writing with the scholars there. Go, Joseph.”

“Well.” I didn’t know where to begin, feeling greatly intimidated by their accomplishments as I had none. “I’ve stayed in the Center Lands, where we all met...and have yet to find a path I wish to follow. I’ve tried profession after profession, but...nothing really feels right.”

“Well, lighten up. You are the youngest, of course.” Ezra tried his best to make me feel better. “Your time shall come soon enough. You’re destined for greatness, I’m sure of it.”


There wasn’t much more to say. Cass went to observing the movement of the fire while Ezra found himself a twig to tease the flames with.

“Well, I propose a challenge.” Cass finally said. “The three of us shall tell a tale. Whoever has the most intriguing one will be named the best among us and the two losers will have to step down from their positions and give it to the winner.”

“Yes!” Ezra immediately agreed. “I call going first.”

“Then go ahead.” I slid off the log and onto the equally damp grass. At least I was closer to the warmth.

“The story begins,” he stood and raised his stick into the air. “Now:

There once was a pirate named Treasure

A legend in the making, a captain beyond great measure

She steered a great ship along the great sea

With no crew, only herself and a pet monkey

She traveled through the seven oceans

And when someone advanced she’d leave their fleets scarred and broken

She was feared by others and loved by only some

But she cared very little, for she only wished for one battle to be won

All she longed for was a worthy companion

Someone she could trust, someone who dared not abandon

Her as the storms raged on and the tides grew rough

The pirate continued her lonesome journey

Save for the endless screeches and coos of her monkey

When finally she docked her ship at a port near Spain

Her heart grew heavy, weighed down with pain

As she saw companions by companions enjoying their own company

She walked in the city, eyes wide with awe, and then she tripped clumsily

Over her own boots, into a fellow lonesome pirate

Her monkey screeched in anger,

jumping up and down on the stranger’s belly as if she was an attacker

The stranger swatted him away,

Slowly rising in the light of day

She dusted off her dark blue coat and straightened her pirate hat

Treasure did the same, feeling quite bad.

“Sorry.” She offered a gold coin. “I wasn’t paying attention”

“That’s quite alright.” The stranger smiled. “No need for compensation.

Quite an odd monkey you have there.”

“Yeah.” Treasure shrugged. “He’s a stowaway from a previous adventure.”

“Traveling alone?” The stranger asked after some time.

“Sadly I am, no crew on my ship.” Treasure sighed like it was a crime.

“At least you have a ship. I lost mine in a bet.” The stranger pulled up her belt so that it rested on her waist. “Never thought I’d stoop that low.

Anyways, I’ll be on my way,” she tipped her hat and continued forward.

Treasure paused. Perhaps this was her chance to bring the lonesomeness to an end

Finally to find a companion, a friend

“Excuse me, stranger, I didn’t catch your name.”

Treasure raised a hand, feeling a bit lame.

“Really? I’m a living legend, a famed pirate. My story is written in stone.

The one who stole all of the Queen’s gold.”

The stranger raised a baguette in the air as if it were a sword.

“Bermuda, legendary captain, sailor of the seas of the world.”

“But, that’s my title.” Treasure interrupted.

“I sailed every sea all alone with my monkey. Had even instructed

The Queen, before stealing her gold, on how to defeat her enemies down North.

Treasure, the legend who bamboozled the Queen’s herd.”

“Well, now, what does that mean?” Bermuda lowered the bread.

“I earned the title fair and square, I was the one who did all of that.”

“There is only one Queen who rules these fair lands and I am sure she only

Had one vault of gold, which is what I stole.” Treasure drew her sword boldly.

“Is this a challenge?” Bermuda drew hers as well.
“So it seems, stranger.” Treasure stood ready for battle, her smile fell.

The sound of swords clashing and a monkey’s screeches alerted the Queen’s guards off duty, who were eating candies and peaches.

“Stop in the name of the Queen!” The Commander yelled at the top of his lungs.

And the battle between the two pirates ended as quickly as it had begun.

“Chief, those are two criminals.” The deputy spoke to her commander.

“Both have stolen the Queen’s prized gems and ambers.”

“Well, it seems that we must join forces.” Treasure whispered.

“Put our little quarrel off for another day and escape. My ship is the third

In the port near the small shop that sells cupcakes and muffins.”

“So it seems.” Bermuda nodded. “I’ll pay you back for this, I’m not bluffing.”

And so the two pirates ran in the other direction, the guards followed suit as they raced through the port’s many sections. When suddenly Treasure’s coat was caught by a stray hook from a shop selling supplies—now she dare not look. As the guards’ heavy footsteps grew as loud as the thunder, she thought all hope was lost, for she’d be hung for her crimes, she plunders. But then Bermuda turned back with little reluctance and saving Treasure in the nick of time, and together they gained fair distance. Then as fate may have it Bermuda was knocked down by a new guard entering the fray with her baton. Treasure fought the guard off as Bermuda struggled to recover. Down she went with a fatal kick into the salty seawater. Treasure helped Bermuda up and they continued their way. Hearts racing, commotion through the streets, the guards in dismay.

Finally, they had reached the ship, nearly out of breath. As they boarded the guards increased in numbers, ready to serve justice by death, Treasure took the wheel, as Bermuda manned the cannons. The monkey let out a battle cry as if he were a dragon. The cannons went off and the ship steered out of port. The other ships were left on fire, ending the guards’ pursuit.

As the two pirates now reached the wide-open sea, a sense of peace entered the atmosphere and grew with a feast. All that was served was only a small batch of fruits along with some apples, oranges, and a drink of mango juice.

“I shall be out of your hair by the next port.” Bermuda raised her glass.

“And let’s say we’re even. No need to fight for a title we both had amassed.”

Treasure nodded and drank a nice sip.

“You know, in my years as captain of this lonesome ship.” She began,

“Not a single time I had met a single pirate who would lend a helping hand.

Especially when the Queen’s guard was right on our tails.”

“Well, I’m sure you would’ve done the same.” Bermuda examined her nail.

“I’ve been looking for another pirate to join me on my expeditions.”

Treasure finally got to the point, making a firm decision.

“Someone who won’t abandon me when the tides grow rough,

Or if the battle seemed lost, we’d fight till the end until our souls gave up.

And I believe that someone is you.”

“I see.” Bermuda nodded in consideration.

“Well, there’s nothing more to say except that I’m in.”

From there the two pirates continued their journey. As they constantly escaped death and looted lost treasures, jewels, and money, the monkey still screeched as the years went by. Now the two legends, the two friends still sail to this day by each other’s sides. With a larger crew of fellow myths who’d risk it all for the glory and the secrets—never would they fall.

Though I must warn you, dear readers… dear listener. They are stronger together, do not advance the ship with the flag that bears a triangle with an X through its center.

For that is their mark, Bermuda’s secrets in a triangle and the Treasure.

Ezra took a bow before anyone acknowledged his story. I clapped both quietly and with much hesitation. Cass only wore a small smile. There’s no way I can beat that.

“Thank you, chaps.” Ezra sat down, proud of his tale. “Now I say you two turn in your titles. It is clear that I have already won.”

“Not so fast, 'famed poet'.” Cass now stood, stalking the grass as if she was a predator sneaking up on her prey. She waved a hand so close to the flame, I feared she burned it, but it was all for the effect. “It is my turn and I suggest you get prepared for this tale is like none you have ever heard of before.”

“Ooh, so interesting.” Ezra cupped his cheeks in his palms, eagerly listening to the competition. I slumped a little in my seat, feeling quite intimidated.

“The story begins.” Cass smiled from the shadows of her hood. “Now.”

What happens next? Find out in our next issue of the Falcon Forum!



By: Sabrina Atiq

In honor of its very first publication of the school year, the Newsletter Crew will be hosting a poetry contest! We hope to recognize the voices of the next generation in topics they’re passionate about. It will be divided between elementary, middle, and high. The deadline to submit will be January 7th, by 11:59 P.M. Please send your admissions to!

Also, if you would like to participate, we highly encourage students to join literary teams, competitions, scholarships, and poetry slams in their area. You do not have to be an exceptional writer to showcase your pieces! Resources include, but are not limited to, Tampa Writing Alliance, Plough Poetry, Inkitt, Young Lions Fiction, ServiceScape, and of course, Scholastic Writing Awards!

It is finally the best season of the year- winter! Here are a few fun winter-themed games; ‘chill’ out, and enjoy! (answers in next edition)

Crossword Time!

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1 To keep warm, wear?

4 People who know a lot about snow

5 When animals move to somewhere warm, they do?

6 Traditional Hanukkah gift

8 When walking on icy ground, watch your?

10 “Let it ?”

12 A famous song is called “Winter ?“

13 Help when driving through snow

14 Hot ? is a popular cold-weather drink

16 People like to sit by ? to warm up.

18 Sport that’s on TV during winter

19 Spike of ice

20 When skin freezes, it suffers from frost ?


1 Winter falls on December 20 or 21

2 People put their presents under ?

3 You need ? to have fun on an ice rink

5 Keeps hands warm

7 Vehicle that clears snow from roads

9 One of the coldest parts of Earth is the North.

11 Not a ski

14 Another word for cold

15 Bears do this every winter

16 No two are alike

17 Helps melt icy roads

Can You Spot the Special Snowflake in Each of the Patterns Below?

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Did you get them all right? Keep an eye out for the answers in our next issue of the Falcon Forum!


The Newsletter Crew

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From left to right:

Lead Editor - Serene Masri

Staff Writer - Rand Shahrour

Coordinator/Advisor - Sr. Maria Perez-Belkherroubi

Staff Writer - Tahreem Cheema

Staff Writer - Asma Abdallah

Junior Photographer - Malak Abdulfattah

Front Row:

Secretary - Sabrina Atiq

Junior Editor - Atqiya Fairooz

Lead Photographer - Ayah Tarabishy

Staff Writer - Nuzat Indawala

Not pictured: Staff Writer - Vaniza Atiq

Past Editions of our Newsletter 2018-2019 School Year

To view prior editions of our Newsletter for the 2018-2019 school year, just click on the links below:

May 2019 -

February 2019 -

December 2018 -