A conversation with Rania Dali is cruising along when it’s asked if she knew English when she came to the United States from Algeria five years ago.
“No,” Rania said, with something of a sheepish smile. “I learned English here.”
Not surprisingly, she’s fluent in both French and Arabic (the North Africa country of Algeria is a former French colony). She’s learned English through school, and
that English seems flawless as well.
Her parents, Abdelkader Dali and Soraya Rahmane, moved to Houston so that Rania and her younger brother, a WAIS seventh-grader, could have a better education. That the family landed in Spring Branch ISD is pure serendipity.
She spent eighth grade at Spring Oaks Middle, then ninth grade at the Academy of Choice (AOC), where she took advantage of the smaller classes and more one-on-one with teachers. At AOC she learned leadership through the Restorative Justice program, and enjoyed going to political events with her former history teacher, the late Joyce Roberta Miller-Alper.
“She was active in politics,” Rania said. “She took me to about everything.”
Rania found Westchester Academy of International Studies (WAIS) and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program for her sophomore year, and is working on her IB diploma.
“It’s great,” she said of the WAIS and the IB program. “It allows me to dig deep into the background of subjects.”
She said she was – and is – really excited about the IB program.
“It’s not just AP (advanced placement) classes,” she said. “You need service hours so it’s not just class-based.” She said students also have to be conscious of events both internationally and nationally.
She’s particularly interested in biology, and has taken the deep dive through the IB program and is now into her second year. “It’s tough, but intriguing,” she said. “I have a passion for biology.”
She also appreciates the international aspect of the IB program – in fact, she said it prepared her well for an internship with the Organization of Community Advocates, a national civil rights organization of community advocates dedicated to advancing the social, political, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans.
“(The internship) was a great opportunity for using the IB diploma,” Rania said. At OCA she helped organize a film festival, develop programs for students and learned about civic engagement.
She’s a member of the Thespian Honor Society, and Interact, a service club for teens that operates under the auspices of Rotary International. Through Interact she helped organize an Interact clothing drive for refugees.
Counselor Beverly Martin said that Rania is an “outstanding young lady” and a “world changer.”
“If she sees a person needing assistance or an area needing attention, she is generally the first to step forward and meet that need,” said Martin. “I’m impressed by her altruistic, giving nature, and I appreciate the impact she has had on Westchester while a student here.”
Rania will be going to Bryn Mawr College on a Posse scholarship. Posse scholarships group together a support group of sorts for college-bound students of similar backgrounds, and who all attend the same elite college.
She learned about Posse through Collegiate Challenge and her counselor, Beverly Martin. She was originally headed to UT-Austin but the school pulled out, leaving Rania headed to Bryn Mawr, in Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia.
Her parents are happy for her but concerned about how far away the school is. Rania shares their emotions.
“I’m excited,” she said, “but nervous.”