Jalil An ‘Amazing’ Role Model

2013 DN-R-Leadership Award Finalists: Turner Ashby

Posted: May 20, 2013

Daroon Jalil, a Turner Ashby High School senior and one of four finalists from TA for the 2013 DN-R Leadership Award, fled with her parents from the Kurdish region of Iraq in 1997. TA’s principal says she has become a role model for the “younger generation of Kurdish girls.” (Photo by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — Daroon Jalil wants to get inside people’s heads, perhaps to help change what they see atop hers.
She decided one day after school had started her freshman year at Turner Ashby High School to wear a hijab, a Muslim headscarf. Jalil, now a senior, was the only Muslim in her school at the time.

“[Students] saw me like a ticking time bomb,” she said. “One guy said, ‘I honestly didn’t think you could even speak English.’”

Jalil, 18, looked past her differences and has become an active member of the TA family. She wants to pursue a degree in psychology when she heads to James Madison University in the fall.

The daughter of Mohammed and Sabriya Jalil, she is one of four TA finalists for the Daily News-Record Leadership Award.

“I am continually impressed with Daroon’s devotion to family, friends and her community,” Principal Steven Walk said. “She is part of the first generation of Kurds in her family to enter and grow up in America. She contributes to her family in so many ways and is an amazing role model to the younger generation of Kurdish girls.”

Jalil was born in the Kurdish region of Iraq while Saddam Hussein was still in power.

Her parents left the country in 1997 after Hussein announced he would kill anyone associated with a foreign company, which would have included her father. At the time he worked for Kurdish Life Aid, an American-European venture that built hospitals and schools and provided clean water to those in need.

The family — Jalil has two older siblings, plus a younger brother — eventually found a home in Harrisonburg.

“They’ve persevered through everything,” she said of her parents. “My struggles always feel petty compared to theirs. I try to remind myself of that. I’m hoping I can be as strong as they are one day.”

If she is, Jalil is hopeful it’s after studying psychology, which she views as her path to helping others.

“People are so, so similar,” she said. “I really want to dive more into it.”

Jalil carries a 4.12 GPA and is projected to finish 11th in her class of 250.

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com


The Daily News-Record Leadership Awards are given each year to one student from each of the five public high schools in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Four finalists are selected from among those students who “best exemplify a combination of excellence of character, qualities of leadership and devotion to duty.” After receiving the names of the finalists from each school, a committee of civic, business and community leaders appointed by DN-R Editor and General Manager Peter S. Yates interviews the candidates, reviews their applications and selects a winner of the $10,000 award. This year’s committee was led by Frank Tamberrino, president and chief executive officer of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce. Former U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr., publisher of the DN-R from 1941 to 2001, established the award in 1955. After this year, 255 awards totaling more than $675,000 will have been handed out. The winner from Turner Ashby High School will be named at the school awards’ ceremony on Friday.

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