Hassan, a senior at Calloway County High School, said the stereotypes she's had to dispel as a young Muslim have made her more mature and helped her be a stronger person, ready to encounter adult life.
"As far as appearances, they don't expect me to be a force to be reckoned with," Hassan said. "It just makes me want to prove them wrong."
A part of her quest to educate naysayers is Hassan's support and participation in the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects. Her uncle, one of Hassan's biggest role model's, started the organization. The group hopes to show the public the positive aspects of Islam, Hassan said.
Safiah Hassan, daughter of Seid Hassan and Fatuma Mohammed, is the Mid-Continent University Teen of the Week. Each Monday, the Sun features a different MCU Teen of the Week selected from nominees who high school guidance counselors throughout western Kentucky and southern Illinois submit to the Sun. Mid-Continent University will provide each Teen of the Week with a $2,500 annual scholarship to its university, which is renewable for four years. In the spring, a Teen of the Year will be chosen from the weekly winners and will receive a full four-year scholarship to Mid-Continent University, currently valued at up to $55,000, or a cash reward of $2,500 paid through the Paducah Sun if the student selects another college to attend.
Before she was 10, Hassan had already traveled to Sweden, Lebanon, Switzerland, England and numerous other locations. Her parents' family members, originally from Ethiopia, moved to multiple other countries after they left their home country. Hassan and her family also visit Memphis and Dearborn, Mich., to celebrate Islamic holidays.
Hassan has her hand in a little bit of everything. She's on the golf team, Beta Club president and she just won the high school's Calloway County Idol competition. She enjoys the variety in her activities, but she'll give most of them up as she pursues a pre-medical degree at either Vanderbilt University or the University of Kentucky.
Though she doubts she can keep up her perfect 4.0 in college, it's just another challenge Hassan is enthusiastic to tackle.
Call Rebecca Feldhaus, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651.