Attending a historically black college and university (HBCU) changed Azizah Ali-Regan’s life.

“I had a wonderful college experience,” says Ali-Regan, a graduate of Virginia State University, who also has a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Pepperdine University. “It really, really helped shape who I am as a leader in this community. For me, it was like my first experience of going to Africa. It was just really empowering.”

Ali-Regan is principal at Islah Academy, a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Los Angeles with a predominantly Muslim student body. She is one of the founding board members of the school, which opened in 2014 with 17 students. It now has 50 pupils.

“I can’t even explain how invaluable this experience has been,” says Ali-Regan, who spent 16 years teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District before helping to launch Islah. “This has been like a dream of mine forever and for us to finally come together as a community and create it, it’s been like ‘wow.’ This is finally the education that I’ve always wanted to be involved in.”

Personal: A native of Chicago, Ali-Regan is married to comedian Omar Regan. They have a son, Isa, and live in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles. Since her parents were Muslims, Ali-Regan embraced Islam at an early age.

Last book read: “A Year of Miracles: Daily Devotions and Reflections” by Marianne Williamson

Quotable: “We create or build or break relationships based on our faith. There is really no disconnect because whatever you choose to call yourself, Christian, Muslim, Jew, you still have that cord that connects you to humanity. The cord that connects you to your Creator is the same cord that everybody has in them regardless of what you call it or how you pray.”