The Green Sheikh visits Grayslake!

On September 23, Grayslake was honored to receive Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al Nuaimi, aka “The Green Sheikh” (pronounced “Shake”) at the College of Lake County to discuss sustainability and possible partnerships with CLC and District 127. Sheikh Abdul Aziz is a member of the Ajman royal family in the United Arab Emirates, but has devoted a great deal of time and passion to environmental planning and sustainability efforts throughout the world.

The visit came about as a result of retired D127 Superintendent and current CLC Board member Dr. Catherine Finger’s visit to the UAE. Having made a connection through a mutual friend, Dr. Finger invited the Sheikh to visit Grayslake to share his efforts and interests with our students.

Of course, the visit was about much more than environmental sustainability. I found the Sheikh to be extremely personable, down to earth, and very much engaged in the work of cultural understanding. That is, his message to our students was one that promoted the well-being of the earth, as well as the health of our relationships
with each other, and compassion for those less fortunate. Over, and over, his message was of brotherhood and togetherness - we are all humans regardless of race, background, or religion and must work together to set the planet - and ourselves - right.

To that end, he demonstrated that some of what we perceive as barriers to understanding each other are not so difficult to overcome. For example, he made a powerful point twice using the perceptions we have of clothing during his presentation to our students. At one point, he asked two men to join him onstage, and he carefully dressed them in a version of the traditional Arabic thawb that he himself wore. As he discussed the significance of the design of the thawb (cooler in the desert, among other reasons), he wove in the narrative that these students are the same people that started the
day in Western dress - same interests, same personality, different wardrobe only.Similarly, he asked a young lady to join him onstage, and he gave her a head scarf. Again, the Sheikh drove home the message that our outward appearances are insignificant compared to our common humanity.

The visit was so much more than I can describe here. However, the experience is one I know our students will not soon forget. Certainly, I believe it directly connects to our Portrait of a Graduate attributes: globally connected citizens who are culturally sensitive. WE absolutely look forward to when we can meet the Sheikh again, and we hope to encourage a partnership in which our students might have the opportunity to visit the UAE and see his homeland for themselves.