Introducing the Hope Fund Class of 2019!

The Hope Fund added 16 new scholars this year from Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, and Lebanon, the result of their successful applications with the support of the Hope Fund for admissions and scholarships to Brigham Young, Duke, Harvard, Lehigh, Stanford and Whitworth Universities; Bridgewater, Coe, Hamilton, Roanoke, Smith, Stillman, Swarthmore, and Whitman Colleges; and the College of Idaho. Congratulations to our new scholars for their success!

Abdallah Abu Al Kheir comes from Gaza, where he is a registered refugee from Al Nosairat camp. After attending UNRWA primary and elementary schools, he completed his secondary education in a government school, where he excelled academically and showed strong leadership abilities. In addition to winning second place in a country-wide English language contest, he was selected for the U.S. Department of State-funded English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program. As an Access student, he also did community service and advocacy work to promote technology literacy amongst his peers. Now a freshman at Whitworth University, studying computer science and business, he asserts, "I would have never made it this far without AMIDEAST's help and guidance. I know that a lot of people would want to be in my place now, and I'm grateful for it.”

Rulan Abu Nahla is a talented young woman from Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Rulan attended UNRWA schools for nine years before moving to a government high school, where she maintained high grades and was always one of the top students in her class. In tenth grade, she participated in the Scientific Research Competition, with her team earning a high ranking for their research into obesity. Rulan was selected to participate in both the Access Program and a second competitive, U.S. Department of State-funded program, the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, which enabled her to spend a year of high school in Oregon. Rulan stood out as a YES student; she participated in Model United Nations and the National History Day competition and was one of 100 YES students selected to participate in a civics education workshop in Washington, D.C. Rulan, who is studying business administration at Stillman College, is grateful for these opportunities: “Despite the stress about traveling abroad, the expenses and the separation, thank you, AMIDEAST, for letting me live my dream. Thank you for letting each scholarship be a new start with new opportunities to create our own paths.”

Ismail Basel Ajjawi comes from Tyre, South Lebanon, where he attended Deir Yassin UNRWA School in Al-Buss camp. Ismail enjoys a wide variety of hobbies and interests, including reading mystery novels and the classics and playing soccer, his favorite sport. Passionate about science, he enjoys watching online tutorials about biology, chemistry, and the different innovations taking place in the scientific world. Ismail received some of the highest scores on Lebanon’s baccalaureate and Brevet exams, making him an academic star in his community. He was accepted to Harvard University with a full scholarship, where he intends to major in chemical and physical biology. He hopes his rigorous pre-med studies will lead to admission to medical school and his dream of becoming a doctor and medical researcher. Acknowledging AMIDEAST’s role in his journey, Ismail notes, “With the tremendous help of AMIDEAST, I now have the opportunity to learn more about chemical and physical biology and to unravel the scientific laws governing everyday life. Thank you, AMIDEAST, for making such a dream attainable.”

Rashed Alfarra is a registered refugee from the west-camp of Khan Younis, where he spent his childhood until his family moved to Khan Younis city in the Gaza Strip. Rashed attended governmental schools, where he excelled both academically and as a student leader. His strong academic performance led to his selection for the English Access Program. In addition to winning an award in a science competition and excelling in science, Rashed is a passionate student of languages. After learning the basics of French at school, he prepared himself for internationally recognized exams, receiving one of the highest scores in Gaza on the Diploma in French Language Studies. Rashed, who was accepted to Bridgewater College to study computer science, notes, “As a Palestinian student, I have always dreamed of joining one of the U.S. universities. AMIDEAST has helped me to make this dream come true.”

Ruslan Al-Jabari, a registered refugee, spent the early years of his life living in Beach Refugee Camp before moving to Gaza City. He attended governmental schools as there were no UNRWA schools in his neighborhood. Throughout high school, he was a top-ranked student, with a nearly perfect GPA. His commitment to academics earned him a spot in the highly competitive Access Program. In addition, he participated in many science competitions, served as the president of his high school’s physics club and co-president of the technology club, and was a fellow at Gaza Sky Geeks, Gaza’s largest entrepreneurship hub and tech business accelerator. He also used his science expertise to mount knowledge-sharing campaigns in order to advance STEM fields in Gaza. Ruslan currently finds himself enjoying the many opportunities available to him as a freshman at Stanford University, where he is majoring in computer science: “I always daydreamt about studying in the most supreme universities in the world; thanks to AMIDEAST, the Hope Fund and EducationUSA, I don’t have to anymore. I get to live it.”

Amir Amer, from Nablus in the West Bank, is majoring in finance at Lehigh University. He participated in the YES program, representing his country as a scholar‐ambassador and engaging in community service. Amir continued to volunteer after his return home, completing 60 hours of community service in 2018, while maintaining an outstanding academic record and actively participating in extracurricular activities, including Model United Nations (MUN), debate, and racial and ethnic diversity clubs. With the help of the EducationUSA Competitive College Club (CCC) at AMIDEAST, he gained admissions and a scholarship to attend Lehigh University, where he intends to major in economics and business administration. “Never have I felt this gratified from a decision I’ve taken than the decision of applying to AMIDEAST to help me set my future. Thank you to everyone who helped me.”

Nader Almadbooh, a registered refugee from Bethlehem in the West Bank, is majoring in astrophysics at Swarthmore College. Nader graduated from Terra Sancta High School, where was on a scholarship. He was also selected for the highly competitive English Access Program. Then, determined to achieve his dream of pursuing his higher education in the United States, he joined the EducationUSA College Competitive Club (CCC) at AMIDEAST. In addition to standing out as one of the brightest and top students in his school, Nader won the “Best School Debater” award at the national level in 2015 and was selected in 2016 to represent Palestine in the World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) in Qatar. He was also a member of the Arab Educational Institute Debating Club and received a Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS)–FMS scholarship to attend a summer leadership program at Yale University for high school students. Reflecting on his experience, Nader says, “In an ever-growing world, one needs more than smartness and skill to achieve his/her ambitions; tools and guidance are as important. AMIDEAST’s role in my journey has been essential in helping make the choices and the decisions that put me where I am today.”

Noor Assi, a registered refugee from the West Bank city of Ramallah, is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in computer science at Brigham Young University. Noor attended an UNRWA school in Ramallah through the ninth grade before moving to a public school. She is an alumna of the English Access Program and the EducationUSA College Competitive Club (CCC) at AMIDEAST. Passionate about technology, she was also involved in several programs related to programming and IT, including An-Nayzak’s “Badir” program and TechGirls, a U.S. government-funded summer exchange program designed to empower and inspire young girls from the Middle East and North Africa to pursue careers in science and technology. These programs opened the doors to her participation in the Intel ISEF competition, for which she developed a device that enables blind and illiterate people to vote in elections without the help of others. Reflecting on her journey, she says, “Climbing the ladder of education takes time, effort and sacrifices. AMIDEAST helped me and hundreds of students climb our ladders and reach places that at some point felt unreachable. Thanks, AMIDEAST."

Nadr Elhelu is a hard-working student and an involved member of his community in Gaza. His feelings of connection to his Palestinian roots are even stronger now that he is representing his country while pursuing his dream of studying computer science at Whitman College. Although he has always been passionate about learning, he finds his coursework at Whitman especially thought provoking. In his free time, Nadr also makes a point of participating in campus clubs, including Justice for Palestine, Man of Color, and Whitman’s archery club, in order to stay connected to his homeland and to help him integrate into his new community. Nadr notes that, "With the poor financial situation in Gaza, I have never dreamt to study in the U.S., but with AMIDEAST’s help the dream became a reality."

Yousef Hanafi is a registered refugee from Al-Amal Camp in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. Yousef attended UNRWA schools from grades 1-9 and then transitioned to public/governmental schools from grades 10-12. Always a top student, his outstanding academic record helped him earn a place in the English Access Program. Yousef demonstrated a particular interest in IT and computer science. Through the IT club in his school in Gaza, he developed courses on programming, logic, and game design. At the College of Idaho, Yousef plans to major in computer science while seeking a broad liberal arts education through the university’s unique degree program that he will design. “It has always been my dream to study in a U.S college. I wouldn't have possibly achieved it without AMIDEAST’s guidance and funding.”

Huda Hashash, a registered refugee from Balata Refugee Camp near Nablus in the West Bank, graduated from Pioneer Baccalaureate School, where she was on a full scholarship all through high school. She joined the EducationUSA Competitive College Club (CCC) at AMIDEAST in order to pursue her dream of studying in the United States. An academic achiever, she earned top grades and numerous awards, including certificates of achievement for distinguished character, outstanding behavior, and outstanding performance in mathematics. Her quest to study in the United States was further helped by a full scholarship to attend a summer exchange program at Lehigh University in 2017, during which she studied business and worked with TeenCentral, an online company, and a scholarship to participate in the EducationUSA Academy at CU Boulder-Colorado in 2018. She is looking forward to starting her program in neuroscience at Roanoke College in spring 2020. “I have always had the dream to be an independent, strong, young woman who would travel and study abroad, and my dream has become a reality. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me to reach my dream!”

Nour Kanaan is a graduate of Nazareth UNRWA High School in Baddawi refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon. She never let being a refugee stand in the way of her dreams. Faced with limited opportunities to receive a quality education, she took advantage of the ones she found. Nour never thought she would have a chance to visit the United States, let alone study at her dream university, but her efforts and determination paid off when she was accepted into Duke University! Nour plans to pursue her passion for neuroscience. While not sure what her next step will be, she thinks that it will involve research, because there’s so much in neuroscience she would like to explore. “Duke is an inspiring place for academic and personal growth. I’m very thankful that I now belong there;,” she observes. “Thank you, AMIDEAST, for making this possible. Your guidance, moral and financial support have been incredible.”

As a registered refugee from Gaza, Lana Sabbah went to UNRWA schools for her primary and middle grades, before moving to a public governmental school for high school. She was first introduced to AMIDEAST as a participant in the English Access Program, in which she became known for her thoughtful comments in class discussions about language, culture, and history. She also participated in civic engagement campaigns, such as the Access Back to School campaign to provide underserved children with school supplies, and volunteered at Saja Center for Brain Paralysis in Gaza to help children who had been traumatized during the war of 2014. Lana hopes that her studies at Smith College will prepare her to be able to make a difference in her community, particularly for its children. "I believe that pursuing my future career in the States will put me on the right track to build a concrete experience and achieve my dream of helping children in Gaza. This dream wouldn’t be true without AMIDEAST’s help and support.”

Belal Shaheen is a registered refugee in the Gaza Strip. Although he spent his early childhood in Beach Camp, his family eventually moved out of the camp to live in Gaza City, where for most of his education, he attended governmental schools since there were no UNRWA schools in his neighborhood. During his school life, Belal consistently achieved high marks. His strong academic performance was matched by his leadership skills, which he used to promoted digital literacy, innovation, and entrepreneurship while a leader of his high school’s IT club. That included forming a team that developed Dislep, an application, featured at Gaza’s Startup Weekend, to assist people with disabilities. In addition, he participated in Al-Nayzak’s programs in Gaza and won his school’s nomination to represent the Ministry of Education schools at Expotech, Palestine's Technology Week. Belal is excited that the Hope Fund is enabling him to continue to develop his computer skills. The Hamilton College freshman in computer science says, “I have always dreamt of studying in the U.S., but the financial situation in Gaza didn't help, until AMIDEAST came and helped to make this dream come true.”

Farah Suboh graduated with high grades from International Independent Schools in Amman, Jordan. A hard worker with clear goals, she loves outdoor activities such as volleyball and riding horses and being on stage, whether to perform in a play or to give a speech. She also enjoys meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures. She has engaged in a variety of community service activities, which she says has taught her to accept different opinions and to focus on finding common ground. She is attending Coe College, where she plans to major in biology. “I would love to thank the AMIDEAST for making my dream possible of going to one the best colleges ever. I’m having the time of my life and the AMIDEAST name is always going to bring me unforgettable memories!”

A Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon, Saleem Solayman spent his early years in Dubai, where he attended a private school. After his father was fired from his job because he was a Palestinian, his family moved to Lebanon, where he completed his schooling at Al Galilee UNRWA High School in Burj Al-Barajneh camp in Beirut. AMIDEAST, the Competitive College Club, and the Hope Fund helped Saleem discover opportunities for college in the United States and guided him through the difficult application and testing process. Saleem is thrilled to be studying applied physics at Bridgewater College, a major he dreamed of pursuing since he was a child: “With the help of AMIDEAST, I got to learn a lot of new skills. They made my character stronger and taught me how to be a well-rounded student. It was totally worth it because of that moment [when] you realize all your hard work paid off.”