Scholarships Change Lives
AMIDEAST/Lebanon Advisory Board Chairman Anis Nassar with scholarship recipient Loay Alarab

Since AMIDEAST opened its office in Beirut in 1968, thousands of Lebanese have benefitted from its services that help students study in the USA. In recent years, AMIDEAST scholarship initiatives have helped more than 100 students win over $18 million in scholarships and financial aid to study at American universities and colleges. Meet Lori Younissess and Loay Alarab. As recipients of scholarships earned through AMIDEAST, they will begin their undergraduate studies in the United States this fall (he at the University of Toledo and she at American University).

 

Lori Younissess: Future Human Rights Lawyer

As the only child of a computer programmer (father) and teacher (mother), Lori Younissess says that she was “always encouraged … to pursue the highest education possible.” After participating in a Model UN Conference in New York, she set her sights on studying in the United States. Her topic—gender-based violence—had made her see “what women and children were going through in different parts of the world.”

Board Members Harry Nadjarian and Habib Debs with Lori Younissess

“I decided that I care too much about this topic to stop my work at the research stage. So, I decided to study international affairs and then pursue graduate study in international and human rights law, so that I can help improve the legal and social circumstances of those people,” she recalls.

For the important first step of completing her undergraduate studies, Lori turned to the EducationUSA Advising Center, which AMIDEAST manages on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, and its Competitive College Club (CCC), a selective program that helps international students through the complicated process of applying to study in the United States.

That’s where she learned about the Emerging Global Leader Scholarship, a nearly fully funded scholarship that the American University (AU) in Washington, DC, offer one international student annually. This scholarship would be critical to Lori’s ability to afford the school’s highly regarded four-year international studies program.

Scholarship Means Opportunity

Lori was selected from a pool of 1,250 candidates for the scholarship. She was one of only four to be interviewed and the only one selected as the winner. While her grades and extracurricular activities made her stand out, she feels her participation in the CCC gave her the edge she needed because AU's admissions counsellors "know how rigorous its programs are, and how serious and hardworking the students chosen by the Center are.”

Students in the CCC are academic high achievers. The program helps them bring out other qualities and interests that strengthen their applications. Community service and participation in extracurricular activities are highly rated. ”In Lebanon, we usually emphasize academic excellence,” Lori observes. “However, extracurricular activities are very important in the United States. If someone wants to apply to study there, they should volunteer as much as possible and participate in as many activities as possible. I definitely encourage them to go to AMIDEAST and its [U.S. Department of State-sponsored] EducationUSA center, because I honestly don’t think I could have done this without their help.”

Lori was born and raised in Lebanon in an Armenian family and graduated from the Armenian Evangelical College. She feels very close to Lebanon and her Armenian roots, and her plans for the future include both. “With a degree in international law, I really want to contribute to the Armenian Genocide Recognition Program. As for Lebanon, one of the things that encouraged me to choose this major is seeing the children who beg on the streets. I plan to establish a scholarship to help them get quality school and university education for free, because this is what will move this country forward.”

 

Loay Alarab: When Perseverance Pays Off

“Had it not been for AMIDEAST, I KNOW I wouldn’t have been able to get any college education.”
– Loay Alarab, age 18. 

As the youngest child in his family, Loay Alarab lived through conditions that would have tempted any other student to drop out of school. In late 2016, his father lost his job when his company closed due to government orders, leaving him with no income to pay for his only son’s tuition at any university, inside or outside Lebanon. 

Two years earlier, Loay had won the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Scholarship, a high school exchange program that AMIDEAST administers for the U.S Department of State. Thanks to this opportunity, he attended a school in Toledo, Ohio, while living with a family who loved him like a son. This experience defined his career dreams, as both of his host parents were attorneys who offered pro bono services to those in need. Inspired by their talent and commitment to community service, Loay decided that he wanted to study law and eventually help those who cannot afford to pay for legal help. 

Unexpected Obstacles

When Loay returned to Lebanon at the end of his exchange year, his family learned that his father’s job was being terminated, and it was likely that he would not be able to go to college after finishing high school that year. Fortunately, he learned that AMIDEAST could also help him through its EducationUSA center. In this program, he excelled as a hardworking, focused student whose challenging circumstances only made him more determined.

In spite of the pressure he felt knowing that winning a scholarship was his only solution, Loay managed to graduate with the highest grades in his school while also meeting the many U.S. university application requirements, including preparing for entrance exams. In April 2017, he won a partial scholarship from the University of Toledo, where he will double major in political science and economics, and then pursue law for graduate studies. 

Mr. Anis Nassar congratulates Loay on the advisory board's
decision to cover the rest of his tuition

 

With a partial tuition scholarship, Loay still faced the challenge of covering the rest of his tuition, room and board, and personal expenses. An unexpected break came when his U.S. host family offered generously to pay part of his tuition and insisted that he live with them during his four years of study. With this, he came one step closer to his dream.

That same month, Loay and the other college-bound students who were helped last year by AMIDEAST were asked to meet with the members of the AMIDEAST/Lebanon Advisory Board and speak about their future dreams and how AMIDEAST had helped realize them. Moved by this young man’s ambition and talent, Mr. Anis Nassar, chairman of the board, announced that the board would provide the funds needed for him to accept this scholarship offer. “We believe in you,” Mr. Nassar said, “and we know that by helping you achieve your dream, we’re building this country’s capacity.” 

Ambition to Give Back

Upon obtaining his degree, Loay will return to Lebanon — to reunite with his family and follow through on his plans to give back to his community. “I want to start an NGO that offers both legal services to those who cannot afford it and also supports all high school students at risk of dropping out of school,” he says. Touched by the opportunities presented to him, he is determined to mirror all this support right back to his community where it is needed most.