From wallflower to role model

In 2007, Hannah Kaur Dhaliwal came to Khalsa School Calgary as an academically successful, but shy and withdrawn, Grade ...

In the fall of 2007, Hannah Kaur Dhaliwal came to Khalsa School Calgary as an academically successful, but shy and withdrawn, Grade 3 student. Today in Grade 4, she's a real leader and role model for other students, says principal Cheryl Hunt.

"We've really seen her develop since she's been at the school," says Hunt. "She embraces everything we try to teach the students. She's still very successful academically, and she's really excelled at being a true Sikh."

The school was founded two years ago to celebrate and incorporate Punjabi culture and the Sikh religion into an educational setting, and Hannah was part of its inaugural enrolment group.

"I like to go to the Khalsa school because you can learn a lot about your culture," Hannah says.

She gets good marks in all her classes, but says her favourites are math and science. She studies Punjabi and works very hard in a Sikh hymn-singing artform called keertan.

Hunt, who is not a Sikh, is a firm believer in teaching the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (from the self-help book of the same name) to children. She's found the principles compatible with the Sikh religion.

"Hannah is embracing the Seven Habits, and incorporating them into her whole life," says Hunt. "She thinks about it all the time, and takes it home and talks to her family about it. She's a great role model for other kids to look up to."

Hannah says the secrets of her success at Khalsa are the small class sizes, the school's leadership programs and the fact it empowers her to take pride in her culture.

"We celebrate Sikh holidays and we do prayers in the morning; we get to do performances at our temple. I like learning about my heritage."

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