By Rick Assad
Motivated, driven, passionate and compassionate are words that aptly describe student-athlete Noor Fahs.
Fahs, who played small forward on the Burroughs High girls’ basketball team, has managed to sparkle in the classroom, on the court and with her non-profit, Healing Hands.
Playing four years and three as a starter, Fahs was a key member on a team that reached the CIF Southern Section semifinals in back-to-back seasons as a junior and sophomore.
“Juggling my academics, athletics, and extracurriculars was in fact difficult, especially during the time in which the season and my finals overlapped,” said Fahs, who has been accepted to UCLA, UC Berkeley, USC, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, Swarthmore, Harvey Mudd, Franklin & Marshall, John Cabot University of Rome, and several others. “But if anything, it greatly prepared me for the future. I learned how to manage my time wisely, how to prioritize certain tasks over others, how to balance my school life with my home life, and most importantly, how to not overload myself by becoming involved in too many things.”
Fahs, who played in 21 games this season, averaging 11.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.0 steals and 2.4 assists and was named All-CIF second-team and All-Pacific League first-team, said being busy was a benefit, rather than a hindrance.
“Ultimately, what helped was that everything I was involved in, I was passionate about, so it almost never felt like I was just doing busywork to pile onto my resume for college,” she said. “I genuinely enjoyed everything I was a part of.”
Being a member of the basketball team was an experience Fahs, who will major in biology with intentions of becoming a general physician working perhaps with Doctors Without Borders, will not forget.
“This year, many of our games had no fans. I worked with my coach [Vicky Oganyan] and the other seniors on my team to push our Senior Night to a game with fans, and I am so glad I decided to do that,” she pointed out. “My Senior Night was better than I could’ve ever expected. I not only dominated during the game, scoring a total of 28 points, but I was so glad to see all the people I love come out and support me.”
Fahs, who has maintained a 4.5 grade-point average over her senior, junior, and sophomore years, added: “My coaches who coached me in elementary and middle school came, and so did a few of my closest friends, some mentors of mine, and my family,” she said. “That night, I realized how grateful I was for the wonderful support system that surrounds me.”
An expansive thinker, Fahs, who was a three-time Academic Letterman and the Outstanding Student of the Year in 2020-2021, has always been a giving person.
“Ever since I was young, I have always been passionate about helping others, from simple acts of kindness to donating to those who need it. Once I began high school, I couldn’t find a club that fully aligned with this passion of mine, so I decided to create my own,” she explained. “Healing Hands began in my sophomore year when I came up with just the right cause: raising money to fund the education of underprivileged kids in Third-World countries by buying all of their school supplies. I chose to begin with one of my own ethnic countries, Tunisia [her mother Houda is Tunisian] since I spend most of my summers there.”
Fahs, a two-time Student of the Month, continued: “Throughout the school year, I work hard to reach out to different people and organizations to collect donations and raise money. In 2020, the Healing Hands program funded the education of 50 students,” she said. “The school materials we bought for them included a backpack filled with textbooks, notebooks, whiteboards, pens, and much more!”
Fahs, whose father, Najib, is Lebanese, said last year was even better.
“In 2021, Healing Hands doubled its previous reach and funded the education of 111 students, grades one through six, living in Tunisia. I worked with a backpack factory in the capital of Tunis, with a school supply merchant, and with the principal of a rural school to make this all possible,” she said. “The backpacks were filled with all of the same materials as in 2020, with the addition of chalkboards, glue, rulers, and other goodies from some of the organizations (such as JBHS UNICEF and the Glendale Police Department) that made contributions to the program. Each student got to choose the backpack of their liking as we handed them out. This year, we want to exceed that number and help even more Tunisian students living in poverty!”
For more information on her non-profit, you can visit healinghands-club.org.
Fahs spoke about the best advice she’s received.
“It doesn’t matter what school you go to, what job you have, or how much you make. What matters is what you do with it,” she said. “What matters is the difference that you make in other people’s lives. That’s what’s going to be remembered.”
Oganyan was there from the outset, and knew Fahs was special.
“Noor is one of the most driven, caring, and high character players I have ever coached,” she said. “She is an outstanding leader who has given so much not only for our program but our school community.”
Not exactly demonstrative on the court, Fahs leads by example.
“I would consider myself a leader. I always make sure to be a leader, not a boss to my teammates. I think it’s very important to differentiate between the two. I am constantly communicating on offense and defense,” she said. “I make sure people are in their correct positions and always encourage them. But I also know when to leave certain things to the coach and not to overstep my position.”
Fahs could score from anywhere on the floor, was a deft ball handler and picked up a rebound when that part of her game was required.
“I would describe myself as an aggressive yet disciplined player who isn’t afraid of trying new things and getting hurt,” she said. “I am a leader on the court and a selfless team player.”
Oganyan saw Fahs’ growth and is extremely proud of her accomplishments.
“She worked tirelessly to become an All-League and All-CIF player. In the process, she’s helped our program in numerous wins, back-to-back semifinal appearances in the CIF,” she said. “She has left her mark as an inspirational student-athlete we admire and love.”
Fahs thinks being structured has made other aspects easier to handle.
“Being on the team has taught me the importance of communication when it comes to team success. It’s crucial that everyone be on the same page so that we are most efficient,” she said. “You also learn that your actions not only affect you but also affect the entire team, so you have to be more considerate with the things you do. Positivity, accountability, and patience are key.”
For one season, Fahs was able to play with her younger sister, Mariam, a freshman on the team.
“I had always looked forward to the year my sister and I would be able to play together. She has only been playing basketball for a few years whereas I’ve been playing for the past eight years, and she still was able to make it to varsity as a freshman. Having her on the team made the program feel even more like home,” she said.” I’m so proud of her and everything she’s accomplished. I’m certain that she will become an amazing player!”
Wise beyond her years, Fahs offered a slice of advice for young people.
“My biggest piece of advice for such a freshman is to surround yourself with people who have that same ambitious mentality,” she said. “It’s easy to get mixed up with the wrong people and get carried away from your goals, so it is important that you have a support group that you can rely on.”
No player or team wins all the time. There are going to be highs and lows.
“If a team wins too often, they can easily become arrogant and lose their work ethic, so a loss is sometimes necessary to wake them up. Just as Malcolm X said, “Every defeat, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time.” You can’t let defeat, regardless of how painful it is in the moment, define and control you,” Fahs said. “Instead, you use it as fuel to become better and stronger both physically and mentally.”
Fahs will soon graduate from high school and college beckons. With it, new possibilities, new promises, new challenges and new vistas await.
If the past is any guide, the smart money is on Fahs to do well.