Speaker Shares Inspirational Message With Student-Athletes

By | April 5, 2019
Zahra Arabzada sitting down talking into a microphone
Zahra Arabzada

The Daemen College Athletic Department welcomed Zahra Arabzada on March 30 as featured speaker during a celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

Arabzada, who has used her experiences as a runner to become a social activist, shared her inspirational story with those in attendance through a conversation moderated by head women’s volleyball coach/senior woman administrator Stephanie Albano and volleyball student-athlete Tirzah Peters.

A native of Afghanistan, Arabzada spoke at length about growing up in an area of the world that has seen so much war and conflict, and specifically the challenges that people, especially women and girls, face in that environment. She also talked about the value that her parents place on education, and how she was afforded the opportunity to get schooling and eventually came to the United States on a scholarship to a boarding school in Rhode Island.

Female athletes in RIC atrium

Although there were cultural differences and perceptions to overcome, Arabzada landed at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Central New York, where she will graduate this May with a degree in biochemistry. During her college years, she found running as an outlet and coping mechanism. Now, she shares her running experiences in an online blog, thehijabirunner.com, with the hopes of empowering other Muslim women and girls to lead an active lifestyle.

“Hearing Zahra’s story was very inspiring, not just for our student-athletes, but for everyone in the room,” said Albano. “She was so candid, and it was refreshing to listen to her. It made us all pause and recognize the opportunities we have here in the United States.”

Arabzada’s appearance on campus is the latest in a string of featured speakers related to National Girls and Women in Sports Day. The event has become a staple of the Daemen Athletic Department’s spring schedule. Past events have included speakers such as U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, Olympic bobsledder Elana Meyer Taylor, U.S. paralympic athlete April Holmes, former Boston College basketball player and local litigator Kathy Sweet, and U.S. track and field team member Mary Saxer.