Last year, on the fifth floor of Blessing Hall, a few first-year students had the face of Kamil Adbul-Qahar on a T-shirt. They also had his face as a poster on their wall, too.
They did like Abdul-Qahar – and they still do at Blessing. He’s their resident assistant, their RA, the guy with the quick smile who has helped them with everything from roommate conflicts to maneuvering through campus life trouble-free.
This year, he has 50 first-year students on his second-floor hall in Blessing. But that’s nothing new for Abdul-Qahar. He’s been a Blessing RA for the past three years, and he’s always asked for first-year students because he wants to help the most inexperienced with college life.
That work has earned him well-deserved recognition. Last year, he was named Veteran RA of the Year. He’s also a science researcher, a filmmaker, a scholarship recipient and an athlete who participates in at least six sports on campus.
The senior from High Point, North Carolina, has now been selected as the Extraordinary Leader for the month of August.
It’s easy to see why. But to hear how he got to HPU illustrates in a dramatic way the university’s generous spirit, the kindness of strangers and warrants using the word heard often around campus.
The story of Abdul-Qahar is extraordinary.
‘Tell Them The Truth’
Abdul-Qahar, one of nine children, attended high school a few miles from High Point University, and he excelled.
He played three sports, volunteered in his community, became a school leader, was selected the captain of his basketball team his senior year, and graduated in the top 20 percent of his class.
He wanted to be the first in his family to go to college, and he wanted to attend High Point University. But the only way he could afford it was with a scholarship. To do that, he had to stand before a panel of people he didn’t even know.
That made him nervous, and it wasn’t because he didn’t own a suit. He didn’t want to go alone.
His mom and dad weren’t in his life. They divorced when he was 9. He lived in nearby Winston-Salem with his stepmom, a nurse, and she couldn’t get off work. So, he asked Patrick Battle, his basketball coach from High Point Central, to go with him. Battle was a mentor, a surrogate father and a friend.
“I don’t know what to say,” Abdul-Qahar told Battle minutes before his scholarship interview at Stout School of Education.
“Just tell them your story,” Battle responded.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Abdul-Qahar responded. “It’s a pretty rough story.”
“Just tell them,” Battle said. “Tell them the truth.”
Abdul-Qahar walked into the conference room, feeling a little more confident in his blue Polo shirt, khakis and size 10 dress shoes he borrowed from Battle. He sat down in front of 12 people and began.
Reaching A Dream
Imagine, for a moment, you’re in high school.
Your parents have divorced, and they have moved away. You did live with your aunt, but she got sick. You tried living with your grandparents, but that didn’t work out because they’re too old to take care of you. So, you end up in a children’s home and later an abandoned house with no electricity and running water.
Your stepmom hears about your plight, relocates from out of state and takes in you and your two brothers. Yet, the high school you and your brothers attend is 30 minutes away. You’re able to go back there, but how do you get there?
You and your brothers come up with a plan. You wake up two hours before daybreak, walk a few miles in the dark and take a city bus across county lines. You walk a few more miles and get to school before the first bell.
After school, you’re busy. You play three sports, and you’re either going to practice or heading to a game or a track meet. But afterward, you need to get home. So, you do what works – take a city bus, walk a few more miles in the dark and get to bed by midnight.
This was one school year in the life of Abdul-Qahar and his brothers, Ali and Manaje.
And this is the story Abdul-Qahar told that afternoon at Stout School of Education.
Abdul-Qahar spent an hour in front of the 12-member panel. When he walked out, he was followed by one of the panel members. The panel member, a man, walked straight up to Battle.
“I can’t believe what he just said to me,” he told Battle.
Right then, Battle knew. His former player, his team’s leader, would get a chance to reach his dream.
“I’ve seen students in their circumstances quit because they don’t feel like they had someone in their corner,” says Battle, a 15-year educator who is now a middle-school principal in North Carolina. “But Kamil, there is no quit in him. All three of them believed they could accomplish things. All it takes is hard work.”
Abdul-Qahar is now a Nido R. Qubein Scholar. He received a scholarship from the Nido Qubein and Associates Scholarship Fund, which has helped more than 800 students in the High Point area afford college over the past three decades.
A longtime supporter of HPU who heard Abdul-Qahar’s story also has provided the rest of the money Abdul-Qahar needed to attend High Point University. Abdul-Qahar knows who the supporter is – they talk often — but the supporter has wished to remain anonymous.
“How do you deny a child who has been through what he has been through and excel the way he has?” Battle asks.
Abdul-Qahar is a member of HPU’s Student Leadership Program, and he mentors students studying science.
As an electronics media production major, he spent last summer researching how music affects men and women differently as part of the Undergraduate Summer Research Institute, better known on campus as SuRI.
As a filmmaker, Abdul-Qahar has produced at least 50 videos, many of which he produced with HPU senior and Massachusetts native Henry Coyle, his best friend since their sophomore year.
As an RA, Abdul-Qahar has helped dozens of first-year students navigate college life.
“He’s the best role model,” says Jordan Gregory, the coordinator for residential services. “He has such wonderful positive energy, and he is a light on my staff. He jumps in on any task and says, “If you need me for anything, Jordan, I’m here.’”
“The Future Feels So Bright”
Abdul-Qahar has always been an RA in Blessing Hall. The irony of the name is not lost on him.
“I’m a firm believer in that kind of irony,” he says. “It’s a blessing that I’m here.”
“When I found out I got the scholarships, I cried,” he says. “I viewed it as a miracle. I couldn’t believe that I could tell myself, ‘I’m going to be able to go college, and I’m going to one of the best universities in the world.’ I still believe that.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but High Point University is an inspiring environment because everyone here is trying to do great things in life, and that motivates me to keep going.”
Abdul-Qahar will keep going. After he graduates in May, Abdul-Qahar wants to study filmmaking at Kyoto School of Art and Design, a school in Japan where his favorite directors have attended.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Jesus or Allah or someone up there, but someone spoke to these people who’ve helped me and kept me going,” he says. “There’s a reason I’ve made it this far. I don’t know what that is, but it’s exciting. I like not knowing what will happen. The future feels so bright.”
Abdul-Qahar believes that. Battle does, too.
“Who knows what he will be able to do?” Battle says. “He is a special young man.”