MHS provides inspiration room for students

Laurel Wang | The Chronicle

Students at Mason High School (MHS) have a new place for peace.

MHS has recently established a room for students of all faiths to find inspiration. Whether it is morning meditation or scheduled prayer times, students can utilize this room to fit their needs. For Muslim students, scheduled prayer times coincide with the school day. Muslims pray at five prescribed times calculated using the positioning of the sun. The current time for the morning prayer, Dhuhr, falls around late noon when most students at MHS are in school, and the afternoon prayer, Asr, occurs around 3 PM. In order to pray, students must leave class for a few minutes.

Junior Nura Salem serves as the secretary for the Muslim Student Association (MSA). She said that the room provides her with a way to identify with her religion while at MHS. She is appreciative of the opportunity to practice Islam while at school, strengthening her connection to both her religion and Mason.

“It’s just like a quick place to go [and] reconnect as a Muslim in America,” Salem said. “You really want that connection in school. [It’s] a nice feeling that the school cares about my religion.”

In past years, a small room in the administrative wing of the building was provided as an inspiration room, but would sometimes be occupied for other purposes or not open to students. At the start of the 2022-23 school year, a temporary space in the library was offered to students during A and B lunches, however, the Dhuhr prayer currently falls during C lunch. While students with earlier lunches were able to utilize the room, those with a later lunch or hoping to use the room after school were unable to do so.

For the current school year, freshman Jenna Elkilani has been using the space in the library during the end of B lunch. Although Elkilani was not able to pray at the exact Dhuhr time, she felt that praying early and not missing class was better than missing the prayer.

“For me, [praying] is an opportunity to speak to God and ask for forgiveness if I’ve done something that’s not a good thing,” Elkilani said. “If I’m going through something hard, I feel like being able to talk to God helps. If I have to miss the prayer, I get upset because it’s my thanks to God for the things that he’s provided for us.”

With the help of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OHIO) and the Lunar Moms, a local organization formed by Muslim moms in Mason City Schools (MCS), the MSA looked into creating a designated room for students to visit throughout the day. The room needed to be private and overseen by a staff member while in use.

Since the start of the second semester, students have been provided with two rooms on the second floor of the administrative offices: A57 and A58. One of the rooms is the “Inspiration Room,” mostly used for storage, and the other room is MHS Principal Bobby Dodd’s office while not in use. The rooms are open throughout the school day and for an additional thirty minutes after school to allow students that have clubs or activities to use them for the Asr prayer. Both spaces are carpeted and are provided with a rug for student use.

Freshman Amna Omar used the room daily while at Mason Middle School (MMS), where students used a Google Form to sign up for time slots. However, during her first semester in high school, finding a staff member that would be able to oversee the room throughout all the lunches was a challenge and limited the time the room was available. The new location in the administrative wing solves the issue of supervision.

Now, Omar feels that the extended availability of the new room provides her with greater accommodations and access to MHS.

“It’ll make it more accessible for us and make us feel welcome in Mason,” Omar said.

Junior Daud Malik, President of the MSA, said he believes the experience of establishing a room for all faiths will benefit the greater MHS community.

“I hope that the new addition of the prayer room opens up not only advocacy [for] Muslim students, but also any other organization or group of people who want to have a set time during the day to do something that’s really important to them,” Malik said.

Graphic by Allison Droege