Congratulating This Year's Graduating DKSSF Seniors

We’re pleased to congratulate 15 seniors in the Diana Kamal Scholarship Search Fund (DKSSF) program who graduated in spring 2017.

These impressive young women and men from Lebanon, Tunisia, and the West Bank excelled in their college studies and are exceptional in many other ways.


Osama Brosh graduated from Williams College with a double major in biology and mathematics. An outstanding student during his four years at the liberal arts college, he earned a prestigious Herchel Smith Fellowship to pursue his M.Phil at Cambridge University, where he plans to work in the lab of Dr. Frank Jiggins in the genetics department, studying genomics as well as evolutionary and molecular genetics. At Williams, Osama also served as co-president of the Williams College Debating Union, joined the Information Technology Committee, was a teaching assistant in biology and a tutor in genetics, and studied abroad in Budapest, Hungary. Amideast was an important part of his life while growing up in Beirut. Thinking back on how [the DKSSF] affected his life and the lives of other students, he offers, “I love that it’s there and I love that it’s an integral part of other students’ lives.” Osama is dedicated to bringing his skills back to Lebanon once he completes his studies: “I want to share my experience and share the things that I’ve learned, and try to leverage these things to make a positive impact on the community.”

Graduating with a degree in biology and government from Dartmouth University, Reem Chamseddine is a well-rounded student who thrived in all aspects of college—academic, extracurricular, and social. She seized the opportunities provided by a liberal arts education, expanding her interests and experiences while furthering her career goals. In addition to conducting biomedical research on breast cancer, she was an editor of the student newspaper and a campus tour guide. She now works as a clinical researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital and plans to apply to medical school. Looking ahead, she hopes to play an influential role in the Lebanese medical field by advancing research and investing in healthcare and biotechnology projects in the country. Through her hard work and talent, Reem has taken full advantage of the opportunity provided by DKSSF. “These past four years have been truly exceptional,” she says. “I have grown intellectually, personally, and professionally in immeasurable ways [and] I am so grateful to DKSSF for this opportunity.”

As a Model United Nations delegate in high school, Michael Daou learned early the value of a strong community, with members who provide support and push one another to achieve big things. A graduate of Duke University with a degree in electrical and computer engineering and computer science, he speaks fondly of the long nights he spent in the library surrounded by like-minded and highly motivated friends and peers, and of the relationships he built by branching out into the business and consulting clubs on campus. Michael is now working as a software engineer at Tapad, a New York-based advertising tech company, and has future plans to pursue a master’s degree. Knowing first-hand how a positive support system can promote individual success, he is quick to offer his guidance and support to the next group of aspiring college students. “DKSSF immersed me in an environment full of strong-willed and ambitious people of my age and pushed me to work on myself in pursuit of my goals,” he says. “Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to experience, see, and learn as much as I have.”

Michael Karam graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in economics and international relations and a minor in mathematics. A well-rounded young man, Michael is also passionate about poetry and has published his own translations of works by famous artists such as Nizar Qabbani. He was very active in campus organizations, including the Oracle Senior Honor Society, Penn Arab Student Society, International Affairs Association, and the Undergraduate Humanities Forum, through which he earned a research fellowship to study language and identity in Lebanon. He has been a tremendous ambassador throughout his life, participating in organizations that focus on intercultural understanding and cooperation, such as Face to Faith, People to People, and Model United Nations. For the past year, he also worked in the Office of New Student Orientation to help incoming students adjust and thrive at Penn. Undoubtedly gifted and hard-working, he credits the DKSSF for providing him with the opportunity to grow and maximize his talents, saying, “Being part of the DKSSF was the most exhausting, demanding, and engaging, but definitely the best experience I have ever had.”

Marwa Mikati is a natural leader—during her high school years she served as class representative, debate club president, and basketball team captain. She continued to apply her abundant leadership traits as president of both the Student Government Association and Model United Nations at Mount Holyoke College, where she graduated magna cum laude with a double-major in neuroscience and mathematics. She conducted research on neurodegenerative brain diseases and also served as a teacher assistant in several courses. She is now working at Washington University School of Medicine, performing research on malaria, and plans to begin medical school in 2018. Her long-term goals include reforming health policy in Lebanon and mentoring youth to help them achieve their educational goals. Citing her “transformative” experience at Mount Holyoke, Marwa says, “DKSSF allowed me to reach my full potential. I was able to make an impact at my college, and I am now embarking on a journey of scientific inquiry and knowledge. I am where I want to be, and I have DKSSF to thank.”

Karim Nader completed a bachelor’s degree in philosophy with a minor in mathematics at Columbia University. His experience sold him on the value of a liberal arts education that he received; the courses he was required to take in literature, art, music, political philosophy and global history allowed him to explore and study subjects that he would have never thought he was interested in and which proved to be extremely helpful to his understanding of philosophy and the history of intellectual thought. That broader understanding, he believes, is relevant to his country. “For Lebanon to thrive, we need to put as much effort into funding and encouraging art and education as we do into pushing people towards fields that we consider useful and respectable.” Karim is working as a paralegal in New York City while deciding whether to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy or go to law school. Whatever he chooses, the DKSSF will have a lasting impact. “DKSSF taught me that by working hard and with passion, you can achieve any goal you set your mind to and it is with this mindset that I will continue to follow my dreams."

Joy Nasr graduated from Harvard University with a degree in nuclear geopolitical studies, a unique academic focus that he crafted himself to unite his two major interests—nuclear physics and international security. He completed a prestigious internship with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, an experience that connected him with leading experts in the fields of nonproliferation, disarmament, and security studies. He has been involved with Model United Nations since high school, and in college served as the Under-Secretary-General of Administration at the Harvard World Model UN Conference 2015 in South Korea. Showing his versatility, he even produced a student-organized performance of “Jacques the Fatalist and His Master” through the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club. Though he has achieved much success and is on the path to more, Joy said that before the DKSSF he was very worried about his future—but through hard work and with a little help, he was able to reach his dreams. “If it weren’t for [the DKSSF], I would not have gone as far as I have.”

Farah Rawas joined the DKSSF with dreams of becoming an engineer. Four years later, after completing dual majors in environmental studies and civil and environmental engineering at Mount Holyoke College, she is well on her way. This fall, she will begin a master’s program in civil engineering at the University of Massachusetts. She credits the DKSSF with providing “an experience [that] has shaped the way I think, refined my ambitions, and allowed me to discover myself and set my goals.”  At Mount Holyoke, she adds, “meeting people from diverse backgrounds, I earned a global perspective that was necessary to realize the reality of the world we live in [and] the urgencies of our global problems.” She is keenly interested in using her engineering skills to invent low cost and high efficiency domestic water sanitation systems that would improve life in impoverished communities, including in Lebanon’s rural areas — “a huge give back” in her mind. She is also teaming up with Arab alumnae of Mount Holyoke to help girls in the MENA region achieve their dreams in STEM fields. “Having attained so much in just four years, I have become unafraid to dream big and achieve more,” she says.


Amel Abid has displayed initiative and leadership going back to her high school days in Tunisia, when she organized her school’s first-ever TEDx event. She brought those strengths with her to Barnard College, where she turned her longstanding interests in social entrepreneurship and technology into a computer science degree with a minor in philosophy. Outside the classroom, she joined the school’s entrepreneurship club and completed an internship at Ashoka in Washington, D.C. Now working at Amazon in Seattle, Amel plans to work in the corporate world for a couple years to gain practical experience before shifting her focus to her passion, entrepreneurship. In fact, she is currently working with a colleague on a social entrepreneurship project to address the high unemployment rate in Tunisia. Though undeniably a self-starter, she also has a true appreciation for the support she’s received over the years in pursuit of her goals. Thinking back to the college application process, Amel says, “It was all overwhelming and intimidating, but thanks to the DKSSF program I was supported in every step of the process not only during my applications but also throughout my four years in the United States.”

Nadia Ali graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Passionate about international development, she participated in a study abroad program to Beijing, where she completed an intensive modern Chinese (Mandarin) language course. That experience helped her earn a Victor Fung Foundation Scholarship that allowed her to live and work in Shanghai and participate in youth leadership conferences in Hong Kong and Singapore. Her passion for cultural exchange had blossomed during her participation in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, which brought her to the United States for a year of high school; the kindness and generosity she experienced inspired her to expand her horizons and give back to those less fortunate. A major focus of her academic studies was to research global challenges such as poverty and sustainability, developing a deep knowledge and strong set of skills that enabled her to complete three different internships across the globe—in New York City, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Her wealth of international experience, she says, “helped me grow on a personal level, but more importantly, it had given me the skillset to contribute to building a bridge of understanding between different countries.”

Helmi Merkhi graduated summa cum laude from Hawaii Pacific University with a degree in environmental science and a minor in chemistry. His dedication to community service and improving the environment is evident throughout his academic, professional, and personal life. As a teen, he organized recycling drives and hosted environmental-awareness events in Tunisia and, during an exchange year spent in the United States through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, he won the president’s community service award for completing over 100 hours of service. With his newly earned degree, Helmi will be working with an environmental consulting agency in Hawaii for the next two years before applying to graduate school, where he plans to focus his research on renewable energy—specifically, photovoltaic (PV) panel technology. According to Helmi, the biggest impact of the DKSSF program has been peace of mind: by filling the financial gaps that students often face such as the cost of books, airfare, and medical insurance, DKSSF makes it easier for students to focus on their academic and cultural experience.

west bank

For students like Niveen Alatrash, the road to success is marked with diverse interests and achievements. She has always excelled in the classroom and is proud to have graduated from Wesleyan University as a double-major in computer science and economics. Despite the demands of two majors, she found time to pursue another passion—music—by joining the Wesleyan Orchestra and Concert Choir. Her college experience is a continuation of the multifaceted talent she exhibited as a high school student in Beit Jala, playing the cello in the Palestinian Youth Orchestra and participating in an international conference on global warming. Coming to the United States to complete her degree was a major challenge, she says. She is thankful to have had the support of Amideast, noting that the DKSSF “made my transition to the U.S. easier and my path to success possible.” Niveen plans to work in the United States for a few years, but is also determined to use her skills to benefit her community back home; her future goals include starting a nonprofit organization that teaches Palestinian youth how to write code. “This experience has taught me that I can reach any goal in life with hard work and dedication,” she says.

Dina Budeiri graduated from Brigham Young University (BYU) with a degree in communication disorders and minors in psychology and French. She enriched her academic and personal experience through numerous activities, including serving as president of BYU’s chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, participating in Model United Nations, and completing study abroad programs in France, Morocco, and Senegal. While learning more about people from other countries and cultures both during her studies in the United States and through study abroad, she also deepened her commitment to her home country. “This experience has helped equip me with the fundamental knowledge and awareness I need to create and realize a vision of Palestine’s future that I share with many other young Palestinians,” she says. She is currently completing an internship at Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation and will pursue a Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree in the near future. With this education, she plans to work as a speech language pathologist and audiologist to help people communicate and overcome language disabilities and raise her local community’s awareness of the importance of early detection.

For Yazan Halawa, perseverance paid off. His initial applications to U.S. universities in 2012 were derailed due to financial concerns, leading him to enroll at An-Najah National University. The next year, he reapplied and was accepted—with a full scholarship—to Brigham Young University (BYU), where he recently completed a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering with minors in mathematics and computer science. His decision to attend BYU not only led to a top-notch degree, but also opened the door to a wide range of opportunities and experiences, including studying abroad at the prestigious University of Cambridge, completing an internship with Microsoft, participating in the a cappella club on campus, and even building soccer-playing robots as part of his senior project. In June 2017, Yazan started a full-time position as a software engineer with Microsoft. He notes that the opportunity to study in the United States through the DKSSF helped him explore new intellectual and social horizons and get the most out of his potential. “Being independent and given the chance to experience something new and different really changed me for the better,” he says. “The knowledge I have gained will help me make a bigger and more lasting effect in life.”

Dina Teeti has taken advantage of every opportunity provided her, climbing the ladder of success through several Amideast programs leading to the University of Toledo (UT), where she graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. As a teen, she participated in the Abraham Lincoln Incentive Grant, English Access Microscholarship (Access), and Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs, which helped prepare her for college in the United States. While at UT, she continued to embrace new opportunities on and off campus, including landing two great internships and serving as president of UT’s branch of the American Marketing Association. She also competed—and placed in the top five—in two national competitions in marketing and human resources. After building her professional experience, she plans to pursue an M.B.A. Long-term, Dina is focused on entrepreneurship as a way to achieve personal success and make a positive impact on her community. No matter what, she says, she is determined to put her skills and knowledge to good use and help build a better tomorrow, adding, “I’ll never find enough words to express how thankful I am for Amideast and all the endless opportunities it has given me.”