Fox Chapel Area student earns Spirit of Unity award

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:37 p.m.

Senior Christine Mikhael is doing her part to erase discrimination at Fox Chapel Area High School.

As president of the Student Action for Global Awareness club and founder of the International Food Club, the Egyptian-born Mikhael said her most powerful weapon is communication.

“It's very important for people to speak up, whether in class or in daily life,” the 18-year-old said. “A lot of times, racism is ignored and it's necessary that we all talk and bring attention to it. Everyone has to be aware of it then we can do something about it.”

For her work, Christine will be honored during the 13th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast on Jan. 21.

Sponsored by the North Hills Unity Breakfast committee, the event will be at the Zappala Student Center of La Roche College. “Honoring Diversity in Our Community” is the theme of the breakfast.

The guest speaker will be Louise Lippincott, curator of fine arts and Teenie Harris archive project manager for the Carnegie Museum of Art. She will speak about the legacy of Harris who, while working for the Pittsburgh Courier, became one of the nation's most legendary photographers by turning out more than 80,000 images of the city's black community.

Christine is set to receive the 2013 Spirit of Unity Award, given to a high school junior or senior as part of the committee's mission to involve youth in programs that promote diversity. Criteria for the award included demonstrations of change for racial justice and the embodiment of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christine was nominated for the award by her AP English teacher after having written a 12-page paper on “Uncle Tom's Cabin,” the 1852 anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Christine said she's honored by the recognition but almost happier that an award exists that speaks to the issue.

“I think that a lot of people experience discrimination on a daily basis,” she said. “It's not just certain groups.”

Her ethnicity plays a significant role in her passion, Christine said.

Since moving to American at age 3, Christine says her differences have always stood out — albeit to a lesser degree than at first.

“I've always felt different, starting in pre-school when I couldn't speak English,” she said.

Christine will receive a $500 scholarship to use for college.

She plans to study international adoption law, based on her travels to Egypt where she regularly visits orphanages.

“It's a whole different level of poverty, seeing how people live there,” she said. “I want to study something where I can help those kids.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at

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