Seaholm Welcomes Hamka

Hamka welcomes the Highlander into his office for an exclusive interview.

   If you ask Ali Hamka, it is his hard work and dedication that got him to where he is today.
   Where is he? Right down the hall, in the Assistant Principal office that was most recently occupied by Othamian Peterson, last year. He is the new AP designated to 10th and 11th grade students.
   Hamka grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, a first-generation American from a Middle Eastern immigrant family.
   “My family came to this country in the late ‘60s,” he said. “You hear a little accent? That’s because I speak Arabic.”
   Hamka grew up speaking Arabic at home, learning English only once he started school.
   “Back then I watched a lot of He Man, I watched a lot of Thundercats, Duck Tales, things like that…a lot of Sesame Street, Nickelodeon. And you learn,” he said.
   Hamka is a graduate of Fordson High School in Dearborn, class of 1998, and of Wayne State University. He is the first of his siblings to attain a degree.
   He has previously worked as a Social Studies teacher at Stoney Creek High School and an Assistant Principal at Hart Middle School in Rochester, MI.
   “This is my second [administrative position],” he said. “But before all of this education thing came together, I was a business owner. I’m a custom tailor…. That’s what I used to do.”
   Tailoring was the family business, Hamka said. It was something he learned from his father at an early age.
   “[my father] said ‘Ali, I don’t want you to work for anybody. So until you get your degree and you start working using your degree, I don’t want you working for anybody, I want you to be your own boss.’ So I invested in the business, I opened a clothing store, I did well for myself,” he said.
   But after four years of working 15 hour days, running a clothing store and attending community college, Hamka had to choose a path.
    “So either I stayed with the business or I took [the presidential scholarship he was offered by Wayne State],” Hamka said. “And I took the scholarship.”
   He chose to continue his education, he said, because, while he liked being a tailor, he had found his passion in education.
   “You have to love what you do…. It was actually my social studies teacher at Fordson High School, there’s two of them, who really turned me on to education,” he said. “I saw myself doing what they did…. It was always in my head, it was just about putting it into play.”
   And “putting it into play” required more hard work.
   “It’s what made me today: hard work and dedication. Good things don’t come to those who wait; good things come to those who hustle,” he said. “You can wait, but no one’s gonna hand you a job. No one’s gonna say ‘here’s a six-figure salary.’ You have to go out there and get it, because there are a lot of people who want that job.”
   And, though he didn’t end up taking over the family business, Hamka said he credits much of his success to his father.
   “The work ethic is from my father,” he said. “If you need me to work 24 hours, it’s a done deal. You don’t have to ask me again about it… I guarantee you it’s gonna get done.”
   Looking forward, Hamka already has high hopes for advancements within the school.
   “Taking the high school from what it used to be, so traditional, to make it more student-centered, where students drive curriculum and test scores,” he said. “Not just standardized tests. I know the ACT is important… but we’re not only teaching you how to take tests, we need to teach you how to be global citizens. And you don’t need a 36 on the ACT to be a competitive part of the market.”
   He also said that he’s excited to build relationships with students and staff members this school year.
   “I’m the new guy, so it’s an exciting time,” he said. “So I’m open to anything… anything and everything works for me, as long as it’s student-centered, and students are supported.”

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