While most 17-year-olds are wrapping up their junior year of high school, taking standardized tests and trying to tread the confusing waters of filling out college applications, Manar Alattar is graduating from Portland State University with two bachelor’s degrees. Along with the 4,738 total students receiving diplomas at the commencement on June 14, Alattar will receive a degree in both psychology and biology with summa cum laude honors and hopes of continuing her studies at PSU, pursuing a master’s in psychology.
While most 17-year-olds are wrapping up their junior year of high school, taking standardized tests and trying to tread the confusing waters of filling out college applications, Manar Alattar is graduating from Portland State University with two bachelor’s degrees.
Along with the 4,738 total students receiving diplomas at the commencement on June 14, Alattar will receive a degree in both psychology and biology with summa cum laude honors and hopes of continuing her studies at PSU, pursuing a master’s in psychology.
Alattar said that while she recognizes her accomplishment is significant and perhaps a rarity, she doesn’t feel it merits being classified as “anything out of the ordinary.”
She left a private Islamic school at the end of fourth grade to be homeschooled. Her parents, Alattar said, played a significant role in her studies.
“Without them, I would not be here today,” Alattar said. “Their support, along with all of my siblings, has been wonderful.”
Alattar said she enjoyed being homeschooled and taking high school correspondence courses through The American School, based in Illinois.
“I would get my textbooks, homework and reading through the mail and then send them back when I was done,” she said.
Alattar was taking full-time correspondence high school classes at the same time she was going to college. By the time she completed her high school academic requirements, she had already completed more than a year of college.
One of the benefits of attending Portland Community College at the Sylvania campus and being enrolled in high school was that she did not need to take the SAT. While attending PCC, Alattar said, she rarely received looks about her young age and enjoyed her overall experience there.
“When people found out how old I was, I felt a little out of place,” Alattar said. “But PCC is a nontraditional school, so naturally classes were mixed with the young and old.”
For Alattar, school is of the utmost importance, but she stresses the fact that family comes first, and she has a lot of it. Living at home with her mother and father, she is one of eight children. Being the oldest, she helps look after her six younger sisters and 11-month-old brother.
“Oh, they’re great,” Alattar said. “You know, of course you always have your sibling moments, but they help me a lot and I try and do the same.”
Importance of educationHer father is one of 13 children, each receiving at least a bachelor’s degree or more. Born in Palestine, he was raised in a refugee camp where money and educational opportunities were sparse.
After leaving for the United States at 18, he attended North Carolina State University, receiving his master’s degree in electrical engineering.
Alattar’s mother was the first member of her immediate family to receive a college degree and was valedictorian of her high school.Even though her parents attended the same college, they did not meet each other until both securing a job at the local Red Robin.
Hard work ethic, determination and self-motivation are lessons Alattar said she has learned from her parents.
“We don’t have a TV in our house, and with so many people in our family, it would be pretty expensive for us all to attend a movie,” Alattar said. “When we do watch movies, we like to rent them and watch them on our computer.”
Alattar said the Disney movie Cool Runnings encapsulates some of the lessons she has learned from her parents through movies, and when her family looks for a movie to watch, it is one of the staples.
“It’s about motivation and going on and achieving your goals,” Alattar said. “In the face of difficulties and challenges, they worked through them with a smile on their face. It’s a great story for us.”
Out of the classroomWhen Alattar is not consumed by her 19 credit hours or helping her siblings with their homework, she spends her time volunteering, coordinating and organizing various Islamic events on campus and within her community.
At Portland State, Alattar is the coordinator of the Muslim Student Association, where she is able to get together with other members, helping one another with homework and joining in prayer sessions.
In her neighborhood, Alattar remains active, helping other young Muslim women with religious readings while coordinating fun ways to make religion more interactive and personable. One of the most popular games is Jeopardy, where the questions are geared toward the Muslim faith. Another favorite neighborhood game is Fear Factor.
“The last time we played we had a mice race,” Alattar said. “The winner has to answer Islamic questions. If your mice was the fastest and you also correctly answer the question then you receive a point.”
Alattar said that if the answer is incorrect, then the participant with the next-fastest mouse gets an opportunity to answer correctly for the point.
After the ceremony on June 14, Alattar hopes to spend time camping with her family, a pastime they like to take advantage of whenever the weather permits.
“The outdoors are beautiful and calming,” she said. “It reminds me of the greatness of God’s creation.”Even though she will have little time to reflect on her accomplishments because she intends to begin working on her master’s degree this coming fall, Alattar said she will find time to just sit and let her accomplishments soak in.
Alattar said one of the moments she will reminisce about over the summer is her walk across the stage to receive the two degrees she worked so hard for while her family watches from the stands.
“I don’t think I could have done it in such a short time without them. We will all be graduating as a family on Saturday,” she said.