Haris Durrani’s Takeaway

Haris Durrani did not attend Tuesday night’s Staples High School awards ceremony.

The soon-to-graduate senior was in a different auditorium:  Carnegie Hall.  He was accepting a Scholastic Art and Writing Award gold medal, for his portfolio of work.

This is a biggie.  Previous winners include Joyce Carol Oates, Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

Out of 185,000 writing and art entries, Haris received — in addition to his portfolio gold — a gold medal for short story, a gold medal for memoir, and a gold medal for Best in Grade.   He earned $10,500 in scholarships for his efforts.

At Carnegie Hall, he hung out with Mayor Bloomberg.  Professional actors read his words.

And he was interviewed for NPR’s “The Takeaway.”

For nearly 10 minutes, Haris talked easily with John Hockenberry about his life — literary and otherwise.

The son of a Dominican mother and Pakistani father, Haris grew up Muslim in a post-9/11 world.  Feeling a duty to represent himself and his communities well, Haris writes about diversity and social justice with insight and perception.

Writing allows Haris to try to figure out who he is — while challenging readers’ preconceptions and assumptions.  One of his stories about racial profiling explores a policeman’s misjudgment of an Asian/Hispanic woman.

But, Hockenberry noted, Haris also shows sympathy for the cop.

“We’re all on the good guys’ side,” the young author explains.  His feelings about diversity and human rights derive, he says, “from growing up in America.”

Hockenberry got Haris to reveal that one of his early influences was Isaac Asimov.  What the interviewer did not say — and may not have known — is that besides being a national award-winning writer (with Scholastic Gold Key honors for memoir and short story, along with his portfolio), Haris is also captain of Staples’ robotics team.

That is, Staples’ world champion robotics team.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Only Haris Durrani could.

To read NPR’s Takeaway story on Haris, click here.  To view a video of Reg E. Cathey from “The Wire” reading Haris’ “Jedi Night,” click below:

To hear the Takeaway interview, click the arrow below:   

22 responses to “Haris Durrani’s Takeaway

  1. I think you are really talented man!

  2. I caught the last part of the interview on The Takeaway after I dropped off my kid at CMS a few mornings ago, and my jaw nearly dropped to the floor of my car when Hockenberry asked Haris where he went to high school. Before knowing that, I was just struck by how articulate and eloquent this teen was. His parents must be wonderful to encourage his talents for all of these years. He deserves much credit himself for taking initiative in so many areas of his life. So great that he found a wonderful mentor in Staples English teacher, Michael Fulton, who is so giving and generous.

  3. I’m so glad good things are happening to wonderful, talented people. Yay, Haris!

  4. It is mind blowing to hear and read about the huge amount of talent that comes out of Staples, nurtured and encouraged by school and their families. It’s more than a “Something in the water” effect.

    Thank you Dan for continually bringing us the stories of the best of the best!

    • Indeed, Ms. West, keep the stories coming so we can massage our egos and rationalize our taxes. Little mention of the Staples kid on Tuesday who hit a car on Long Lots and then kept driving up Burr Farms to avoid any consequences and the five police cars that chased him. He must drink well water. This is not meant to take anything away from Haris (God forbid I end up like Jeffxs) but he is unique and special. Far above the maddening crowd.

  5. The Dude Abides

    Eighteen years old? Remarkable.

  6. Maggie Feczko

    Harris was honored by Sunrise Rotary as a Young Social Entrepreneur. He is a remarkable young man. So sorry I missed the interview on NPR.

  7. Haris,
    It was an honor and a pleasure to learn with you. I look forward to seeing you at graduation. You deserve every award you have EARNED. All the best, DG (Keep writing!)

  8. Ann Marie Flynn

    WOW! Where will Haris’ multi-talents take him.
    His parents and teachers should also take a bow for keeping his mind and heart so wonderfully active.

  9. John Dodig

    Mr. McGee,

    What does that student driver have to do with Haris Durrani or anything else for that matter. Wasn’t a woman recently arrested for driving drunk with some of her kids in the car? Haven’t several adults in the past year been arrested for embezzling funds? Some people (young and old) do dumb or bad things. Most do not. We have lots of kids like Haris at SHS and hundreds slightly less spectacular but good, honest, hard-working, ethical, caring, giving kids from good families. Even they make mistakes, however. Didn’t we all when we were teenagers?

    • Princeton '82

      I seriously doubt if you have “lots of” Haris Durrani’s at Staples or anywhere else. He is very special. If you read his writings, he has very much the same concerns as pointed out by the commentator McGee.

  10. The broad brush painted by Ms.West is a generality. My example of the mistake by the Staples driver was to point out that. No more, no less. I made that clear, I thought. Actually, my concern is for the bottom of the class of Staples ’11 who will face far greater challenges, with many times just as many parental and societal expectations, than Master Durrani. I am afraid that they often get lost in the bravado of chest pounding that goes on at this time of the year, every year for past 50 or so.

    • McGee,

      Some people grow-up later than others. Today, an acquaintance told me, with pride, about her son who barely graduated from Staples but despite that handicap, just graduated magma cum laude from college. It wasn’t a big or little Ivy but a solid college. He simply needed the extra time to gain his footing – and when he did, he had the tools to make things work. Even students at “the bottom” of the class of a good school will learn valuable skills.

      You seem to want to denigrate the schools and supporters of the schools like Ms West for what are your own particular reasons. Read your very negative response to Ms West and your own generalities and ill-will and if you feel I’ve gotten it wrong, know that it has come, not from my imagination, but from your own presentation.

  11. Submariner: I feel that the adminstration of Staples promulgates the view that you are “special” because you attend their school. Ms. West’s comment about the “best of the best” substantiates such a conception. I find this to be untrue and unrealtistic in terms of the majority of Wrecker students. Haris Durrani is the exception rather than the rule. This may seem petty, to folks like Principal Dodig, but I think it is significant to those students, like your friend’s son, that may either mature later in life or merely are not academically inclined. Expectations are great enough to these kids without promoting an atmosphere of false reality in which they learn. Most of Staples graduates go to Tier II/III colleges. They spend 4 years in a sea of whiteness with little exposure to diversity and athletics are probably over-emphasized. That is the reality and hardly special unless you are gifted like Master Durrani.

    • McGee,

      Do you know “a majority of Staples students”? Do you have access to student achievement after high school graduation? Do you have an idea what activities students are engaged with after school hours – to include athletics? Have you ever spoken to Principal Dodig to ask him why he is such a promoter of Staples students and Staples the school? Etc., Etc….

      You are shortchanging yourself if you have not asked these questions and gotten the answers to them and more. It is doubtful that you would stand by your expressed opinions if you took the time to examine your positions.

      • I went to Staples. I know the gig. I know where the kids go to college and I know that the BOE/administration have been “selling” Staples for five decades to rationalize their egos as well as budget. Have you ever thought about the possibility that your friend’s son did not acquire the requisite “tools” until he reached college that were lacking in high school??? You are drinking the Kool Aid. They serve it up big time at graduation time.

        • As a recent staples grad (2007) I feel the need to chime in. The first thing I realized when I got to college was that in many ways Staples prepared me far and beyond many other students in certain areas (many of whom went to private schools as well). Writing is the number one thing, when I was at SHS I thought I was probably bottom 50% in terms of writing ability, however after I left I soon realized that I was one of the best writers on campus (for a non english major at least). Also, knowing how to use a calculator well, actually remembering the foundations of economic theory and being able to still derive things (something that I didnt feel all that confident about while at SHS) are all skills that I feel fortunate to have learned while in high school.

          Yes, you can say that my talents might have been hidden to me and I only realized it in College, but I for one do not think this is the case and honestly when you sit down and think about it, do you really believe that all of the other students who feel more than adequately prepared for tertiary education (many of my friends feel as I do) are just “late bloomers” and had to have a higher education just to bring out skills?

          Thank you Mr. Dodig for caring about SHS and the town of Westport, I saw first hand how much work you put into keeping SHS a top notch school. Yes there is a lot of emphasis put on the “top” kids, the ones going to ivy league schools, but the rest are stunningly prepared as well (even if they do not know it at the time). I would find it hard to believe that many students leave SHS and suddenly find themselves overwhelmed and unprepared compared to the student next to them (assuming they went to class at SHS of course).

          • Thank you for your honest thoughts and glad to hear you are doing well academically in college. My experience was not as you describe nor do I find such in many recent graduates. Continued success.

        • “Best of the best”: gotta love it. Those poor schlubs in New Cannan and Darien can keep their higher math scores on the SATs, we are be declaration “the best of the best.” You can’t make this stuff up.

          • My understanding is that 68 Staples 2011 graduates gained admission to Ivy League or so-called Tier I schools. This is up from 52 the previous year. This is impressive, I will admit. The blowhard who told me this in a swaggering posture is sending his daughter off to University of Maryland next fall. A good school but hardly Tier 1. So “Best of the Best” apparently is by association. Bravado with a concave chest. It never changes.

          • I think your observations with respect to how the school serves the bulk of the student body are most relevant.

  12. Thanks. I might just give ya a couple of strokes on the back nine. On my above comment, I wonder how the daughter feels when her father is bragging about her classmates???? To me, that is the key downfall to the bravado.