First Muslim woman to wear hijab with uniform at Norwich

Vermont's Norwich University welcomes its first cadet to wear a hijab

(CNN) – History is being made at the oldest private military college in the U.S.. For the first time, a cadet is attending the school while wearing a hijab. Being a cadet at Norwich University is not easy, especially if you’re a rook.

Sana Hamze, Norwich University Freshman said, “There are definitely days where you wake up and you are just like, is this really what I want to do?”

Sana Hamza says despite the strict rules, she’s determined to make her mark. Many would argue she’s already started. The freshman from Florida prompted the oldest private military college in the United States to change its uniform policy.

Hamze said, “I applied to Norwich and the Citadel right around the same time earlier in the year. And I got accepted to both. And then I sent a letter to the Citadel and to Norwich asking them if I would be allowed to wear my hijab.”

Citing concerns with disrupting uniformity, that military college in South Carolina said no.

Hamze said, “It was crushing, to say the least.”

After nearly 200 years of having one policy, the Norwich president said the school will now accommodate reasonable religious requests like hijabs and yarmulkes.

Richard Schneider, President, Norwich University said, “Change and culture change does take time but I don’t see any problem with this at all.”

Hamze says she’s treated like every other cadet but she does stand out, “People have stopped me and been like ‘What you are doing is so cool’ or ‘Thank you for what you are doing, it’s really opening the minds of everyone.’ Both of my parents were born here. I’m just an American really. That’s all there is to it.”

As the first Muslim woman to wear that head scarf with her uniform, she says she hopes she can change people’s perceptions about what it means to be Muslim in America.

Hamze said, “When politicians say that we are out to hurt people or you see extremists groups killing people, that’s not what Muslims are about at all.”

She also hopes it encourages other Muslim women to follow in her footsteps and come to Norwich.

Richard Schneider said, “I think that we might be able to attract more now that she has kind of like laid the pathway forward on this but we’ll just have to see how time works out on that. But I would like to become a more diverse university.”

Hamze said “For a long, long time I’ve been wanting to join the military and I’ve been wanting to just serve my country.”