Each year dating back to 2006, graduating seniors at Drexel University are invited to nominate a high school teacher who had inspired them to pursue a college education for the Harold W. Pote “Behind Every Graduate” Award. This year, Moorestown High School alumni and recent Drexel University graduate Jennifer Lam nominated former MHS counselor Raheel Saleem for the award.
To be eligible to receive this award, a nominee must be an active high school teacher or staff member of a graduating senior at Drexel University, and he or she must have been nominated before April 22. Seniors choosing to nominate a teacher must have done so online and included the necessary nomination information along with a one- to two-page essay discussing the nominee’s influence on that particular senior’s educational path.
This year, Saleem, who is now the school counselor at Montgomery High School in Skillman, was one of four recipients and was presented this award at the university president John A. Fry’s commencement dinner held on Friday, June 10. He was awarded an all-expenses-paid stay in Philadelphia to attend the event and an additional $2,000 prize. Lam chose to nominate Saleem, whom she first met in 2010, for the deep impact he made on her life while she attended MHS.
“I think that a lot of people in the education field don’t get enough praise and appreciation, and Mr. Saleem is one of those exceptional people. I was notified on my birthday and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift,” Lam said. “I wasn’t sure if it would work, but I used my essay submission to build a convincing case for this amazing individual.”
In her essay of nomination, Lam drew back on her experience at MHS and how during this malleable and impressionable stage in life, Saleem became more than just her high school guidance counselor. Instead he became the person “behind the graduate,” or who consistently and actively believed in her future.
In her essay she wrote, “In addition to his role as my guidance counselor, [Saleem] served a vital role in my success and accomplishments today. It’s not that other people didn’t believe in me, but where they had some doubts about the future, he showed me that my future depends on my choices and decisions, not what strangers in an admissions office think I can do.”
Even after being told her essay had won Saleem the award, Lam decided to keep the news a secret from her nominee. Although she had planned to share the essay with him after the results were released, she wanted to keep her nomination a surprise.
“As soon as I heard that the award was based out of Drexel University, I thought back to who I helped get into Drexel and I could only think of one person,” Saleem said. “Thinking back to it, I just knew it was Jenn who nominated me. Soon after I spoke to Drexel University, Jenn sent me an email to say that I had won an award.”
Helping award Saleem the recognition she felt he deserves, Lam is glad she has been able to give back to the member of her high school staff whom she felt has given so much to her. As she says in the conclusion of her essay, there is not one other person she feels is better deserving of such an award.
“Winning the award was great, but the greatest part about winning was knowing that I was able to help Jenn. She is truly a remarkable young woman, and I know that she is going to do great things and help others in her future,” Saleem said.