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Leila Abu-hijleh ‘08, MA ’15

A story of strawberries and cream


“So much of my life is connected to HNU. It’s more than an Alma Mater. It’s my family. My home,” said Leila Abu-hijleh ‘08, MA ’15. “But I almost didn’t come here.”

Leila was a signature away from going to a different college before she had second thoughts.

She recalled, “I was with my mom at this other school, and we were about to make the first payment. When suddenly I felt a flood of anxiety. I told her ,‘Stop. Stop signing the check.’ —And we just got up and walked out. My mom, to her credit, didn’t question me. She went along with it and trusted me. As we drove away, I asked her ‘Can we look at Holy Names again? I feel like I didn’t give it much of a chance.’”

Leila felt an urgency to get to HNU so they drove straight to campus without stopping for lunch. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a friendly enrollment counselor who, after offering them a seat, stepped away. Moments later, he came back with two plates piled high with strawberries and shortcake. Grinning widely, he explained that it was HNU’s Founders’ Day, and the strawberries and cream represented a longstanding tradition of warm and welcoming hospitality at the University.

Leila remembers it well. “I can’t describe the feeling that rushed over me. At that moment, I knew this was the right place for me,” she said. “I started to cry. Then my mom looked at me and she started to cry. That gesture, it changed my life.” Leila enrolled at HNU in 2004 and has been a student or staff member at Holy Names ever since.

former Holy Names University student Leila Abu-hijleh
Leila Abu-hijleh '08, MA '15

This article first appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of HNU Today.