Congratulations to Our 2017 Hope Fund Graduates

It is with great satisfaction that we mark the graduation of 10 Hope Fund scholars this year. These outstanding young men and women came into the program well before their dreams of winning scholarships to pursue their college studies in the United States came true. They continued to make their mark during their journeys, making all of us at AMIDEAST proud.

Meet This Year's Graduates

Jamal Abu Ghali graduated from Grand View University in Iowa with a degree in management information systems and business management. During his time at his university, he served as the vice president of the International Club, where he spent a big part of his time and learned a lot about the world and himself. “My college life was a completely amazing experience,” Jamal said. “Through my extracurricular activities, especially my role at the International Club, I met different people from different backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures, which changed me forever.” During high school, Jamal was an exchange student for a year in Akron, Ohio, through the YES program. He was also an Access student and an Abraham Lincoln Scholar. Jamal comes from a refugee camp in Rafah, but despite his tough background, he remains steadfast and hopeful. “I’m lucky to have an inspiring family that encourages me to become who I want to be; and I want to be a successful person and to go explore this lovely earth!” Jamal plans to go to graduate school. 
Hashem Abu Sham’a graduates with the distinction of being one of the first Palestinians to receive a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where he will pursue an MSc in refugee and forced migration studies and a second MSc, tentatively, in international relations. Hashem’s path to Oxford began in Arroub Refugee Camp in the West Bank, where he attended UNRWA schools and already showed his activist side by starting a youth movement. The Hope Fund was pivotal, enabling him to pursue his interest in peace and global studies at Earlham College in Indiana and engage in a variety of activities. He served as the first-ever youth representative of Palestine refugees at the UN and interned at the Institute for Palestine Studies and UNRWA USA in Washington, DC. These experiences have only deepened his resolve to continue to help his people: “I hope to continue this trend of serving wherever I can be of help. Eventually, I want to start a self-sustained community center in my refugee camp, and to stay involved in the world of academia.”   
Graduating from Smith College with a 3.99 G.P.A. and on the dean’s list all four years, Ghida El-Banna is more than ready to face any academic challenge. She majored in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry, but also appreciated the liberal arts component of her degree, which helped her to broaden her skills and knowledge. Her success extended beyond the classroom: in summer 2016, she helped provide free medical care to underserved communities in Lebanon, where she grew up; she coauthored two review articles on nanomaterials; and she was active in student groups on campus. She is currently enrolled in an accelerated master’s program in public policy at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and eventually plans to attend medical school and become an advocate for equitable public health policies. She credits the Hope Fund for providing her with the opportunity to obtain a first-class education. “The Hope Fund taught me to believe in myself and dream big. I would not have made it to a college in the USA […] without the Hope Fund’s help and support.”
Mohammed Albaz began his Hope Fund journey in 2012 at International Horizons College in Dubai, spending a year there before transferring to Bridgewater College, where he graduated in December with a degree in business administration. In that time, he has not been back to Gaza and Deir Albalah Camp, where he grew up, but Gaza is not far from his thoughts. At Bridgewater, he worked closely with faculty and students to create an organization that cares about international issues — “especially with refugees, Palestinians, and Muslims in America.”  One day, he would like to enable others to launch their own dreams by establishing a nonprofit organization that assists Palestinian refugees seeking to begin their own small entrepreneurial businesses. For now, though, he is learning by doing, having decided to start his own business. “The Hope Fund has given me hope, as cheesy as it sounds,” he says, adding, “I am always thankful for where I am and how I got here. It all goes back to AMIDEAST, where I learned proper English in the Access Program, and then the Hope Fund for believing in me.”
Fatima Alshantti used the difficult circumstances of growing up in a refugee camp in Gaza as motivation to work hard and aim high. Through the Hope Fund, she spent a year at Mt. Ellis Academy in Bozeman, Montana, preparing to make the most of the full scholarship she received from Illinois College. Fatima graduated magna cum laude with a major in biology and a minor in computer science, and her excellent academics were rewarded with membership in the National Biological Honor Society. In addition, she participated in student government and numerous other on-campus organizations and conducted research with faculty in the biology and psychology departments. She is currently enrolled in an accelerated nursing program at Ashland University and will complete her BSN degree in August 2018. Crediting the Hope Fund with helping her achieve her goals, she is now determined to help others in need. “After getting certified as a registered nurse,” Fatima writes, “I want to volunteer in areas where there is lack in medical services.”
Hussam Ibrahim credits his success to a strong work ethic and reliable support system of friends and family—and the Hope Fund. He graduated from Augustana College with a degree in physics and applied mathematics and participated in numerous activities that enriched his academic experience. He completed a summer internship at Baylor College of Medicine during which he helped design an automated system that scans and classifies body cells. He also took part in a study abroad program to Ireland, spending several weeks touring various cities and learning about Gaelic culture with a particular focus on music and literature. His success at Augustana has pushed him to strive for more, and his next step will be to pursue a Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Iowa State University. Thankful for the opportunity provided by the Hope Fund, Hussam now fully appreciates the importance of helping those less fortunate, saying, “I strongly believe that people deserve a shot in life to thrive, and I would like to be someone who can give back.”
Ibrahim Mohammad’s dedication to helping others has left a positive impact on countless lives. When he arrived at the University of Rochester (UofR), where he majored in mechanical engineering and mathematics, he was inspired by the many opportunities available beyond the classroom. He joined Engineers Without Borders his freshman year and helped to organize a trip to Dominican Republic to provide a local school with a new water system. He co-launched a project in Lebanon that uses 3-D printing technology to produce affordable prosthetic limbs, and joined three UofR students to form a startup company that builds homes for refugees using recycled plastic—a concept that has won several business competitions and is currently contending for the prestigious $1 million Hult Prize. Ibrahim has come a long way from a difficult childhood—often living without access to water or electricity—and his various aid projects reflect his belief in the power of a helping hand. “The Hope Fund gave me the opportunity I needed to become the person I wanted to be, and help people like me,” says Ibrahim, who is planning to pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at the UofR, whose leadership is extending to him all the financial support necessary to further his education. 
Following a competitive selection process, Haya Mohanna was selected the graduation speaker for the Class of 2017 at Gettysburg — just the latest way that she has stood out. Even before she came to the Hope Fund, she qualified for three highly selective scholarship programs - Access, YES, and the Abraham Lincoln Grants programs. At Gettysburg, she took on the rigor of a major in mathematical economics, with a minor in business, and has taken advantage of the opportunities available at the small liberal arts college. She studied abroad in France and participated in the Eisenhower Institute’s Women in Leadership Program, researching women’s issues in politics, media, and business. “Passionate about the stories numbers tell,” Haya plans to attend graduate school in behavioral economics to prepare for a career involving data analysis. She thanks the Hope Fund for having “created a different life path [for me] — a path where I discovered my passion for economics [and] have engaged in countless opportunities that expanded my horizons and molded me more to be a global citizen. A path where I got to raise awareness about home and work towards home and my people.”
Ali Rabeh completed an impressive college career at Augustana College in Illinois. His hard work as a major in applied mathematics and physics paid off with numerous academic and professional accomplishments, including research assistant positions at a nuclear physics laboratory at Michigan State University and at a structural biology lab at Baylor College of Medicine; membership in a physics honor society; and receiving the Harry Nelson Award for Excellence in Mathematics. He said that his time at Augustana helped him to become a much more confident and ambitious person—as his many achievements attest. Eager to expand his expertise, Ali will now pursue a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University, where he was also awarded a research position. He appreciates the Hope Fund for providing him with an incredible opportunity, and looks forward to the day when he can help other disadvantaged Palestinian students achieve their goals. “Without the help of the Hope Fund, I would have never been able to attend such a great school,” he says.
Mohammed Rezeq grew up in Dair Al-Balah refugee camp in the middle of Gaza Strip, in a large family that lacked the financial resources to provide the children the better education they wished.  Before coming to the Hope Fund, Mohammed qualified for two other highly selective scholarship programs: the Access and Abraham Lincoln Grants programs.  With the help of the Hope Fund, he then received a scholarship from the University of Richmond in the state of Virginia. There he completed a degree in chemistry and monocular biology last December and formally graduated this May.  Thankful for this opportunity to pursue his education in the United States, Mohammed says, “I believe that I can make a good change in this life only if I get the opportunity to mingle with new people and discover the new ways of thinking.”