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The Ilyas Family Shipley Story: An Effortless Sense of Belonging

Kathy Smith
The Ilyases were looking for something more than just an excellent academic education when they explored independent schools for their children. “We are fortunate to live in an area rich with educational opportunities,” explains Erum, mom to Dean ’21, Amber ’24, and Sammy ’25.
 
The Ilyases wanted a school where their kids were going to be free to define themselves and feel a strong sense of community. Like most schools, Shipley promises a caring and diverse community. But Erum will be the first to acknowledge the intricate complexity that comprises a truly diverse community in which every individual is valued for their contribution and ideas.
 
“Whether through my own schooling or work, it seemed that most attempts at a diverse environment, although well-intentioned, inadvertently fostered a sense of ‘otherness,’ and I didn’t want that for my children,” says Erum, whose parents and grandparents have Pakistani and Indian roots but left those countries almost 50 years ago. She laughs, “I was born in Maryland. So when people ask me where I am from, I don’t know if I should tell them I am from Maryland or where my grandparents were born.”
 
“Fostering diversity can be tricky,” Erum explains, “Although it’s wonderful to respect and promote what makes us different, not everyone wants to be a ‘representative’ for what might make us different. At Shipley, my kids were welcomed because of, and regardless of, their heritage.”
 
“Shipley has created an atmosphere that lets our kids share who they are, and also who they want to be. For example, when it was the ‘Heritage Feast’ day, Sammy brought in Maryland crab cakes! I was tickled that my kids feel free to represent either the heritage of their parent from Maryland or their great grandparents from overseas.”
 
“At Shipley,” explains Erum, “my kids feel an effortless sense of belonging.”
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The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.