As a child I had a handful of dreams. But for me, the most important dream was to become an engineer. I was in love with drawing blueprints of houses and buildings. My first day of school was exciting, because I felt a step closer to my dream. When I returned from school that day, I told my dad that I wanted to become an engineer, and that I was willing to do whatever it took to reach that goal. In my heart, I wanted to make my father proud. The years passed and I studied hard and did well in every class. School was my favorite place and studying wasn’t work because I enjoyed it so much. During those years I kept my eyes fixed on my dream.
When I was ten years old and in fourth grade, I earned the highest marks in the class. When the school year ended, I was excited to attend the awards ceremony. I thought, as the best student, I would be presented with a beautiful gift from the principal. On the day of the ceremony, the school was crowded with students and parents who had come for the event. Teachers were sitting on the edge of the stage. Our principal told all the students to line up. I could hardly wait to receive my special gift. My parents stood near me, along with my sisters. As I glanced sideways at my mom, she gave me a beautiful smile. Finally, our principal took the stage. The tables were laden with presents. Our principal began to read the names of all the students who were the best in their class, from first grade to the fifth. When she began to call out the names of the students in the fourth grade, I felt anxious. I waited and I waited, but I did not hear my name.
On that day I understood that life is not fair and that prejudiced people will judge others by their religion, not their ability. I was a Bahá’í student who was better than her classmates but our principal refused to give me a gift. She had reduced my marks as well so I wasn’t even the best student in the grade any more. I was devastated. I can hardly describe what it felt like for me, as a ten year old girl, to receive such treatment. I lost all hope for realizing my dream, and I worried that I had made my parents sad as well. In the days that followed my parents tried to let help me understand how precious my religion is. My dad told me that he was proud of me no matter what.
When I was fifteen, I returned to the school to visit the principal. She asked me to forgive her. I told her that I can forgive her now, but as a little girl I could not. I explained to her how she had destroyed my precious childhood dream. Since that time, I have made it my mission to correct the misperceptions my fellow Iranians have about the Bahá’í Faith. It isn’t easy to explain your religion over and over again, especially when someone isn’t open to hearing the truth. It isn’t easy to study hard when you know that you can never attend an official university. It isn’t easy to do any of these things, but I do. Now I study English. I want to perfect my mastery of the language so I can tell people from different countries all about my beautiful religion. I was ten years old when I first understood that I am responsible for helping to achieve the goals of the Bahá’í Faith, and this remains my cherished dream today.