Meet Our New DKSSF Students

We’re pleased to introduce our 16 newest DKSSF scholars, now in the midst of their first year of undergraduate studies at colleges and universities across the United States, as well as at two overseas branches.

Academic excellence is a prerequisite to joining the program, as DKSSF candidates must be able to stand out in the highly competitive college application process if they are to succeed in winning the scholarships they need in order to realize their college ambitions. As you’ll learn from reading their stories, they also stand out for their potential to contribute to campus life and, in the longer term, give back to their societies.


Asem Yasser Abdelfattah is passionate about education and design. Growing up in Alexandria, where he attended the New EL-Quds American School, he focused his energies on being a volunteer with local nonprofit organizations and on self-study using a plethora of online resources. Now at Troy University, he has already channeled these interests into his studies of global business with a concentration in marketing, particularly digital marketing, content creation, and web design. He has become a school photographer and a staff writer for Troy’s student newspaper, Tropolitan. Moreover, he has helped organize TEDxTroyUniversity, carrying on an interest that he developed as a member of TEDxYouth in Alexandria since 2012. “I'm passionate about informal education,” he says, adding, “I hope to make my passion part of my career.”

Maryam Haytham Esmat stands out for her numerous and diverse accomplishments: she finished her novel, The Escaping Flashback, at age 16; served as the vice president of the EducationUSA Competitive College Club (CCC) at AMIDEAST/Egypt; placed fourth in Egypt in the high jump; and served as an English tutor and head of the astronomy and physics department at Insight, an educational organization. Passionate about both the sciences and the arts, she is pursuing a double major in astrophysics and literature at Lycoming College with the goal of becoming an “artistic scientist”—a term she conceived to “explain [her] affection and commitment for both fields for as long as time stretches. Abbas Ibn Firnas and Leonardo da Vinci are examples of artistic scientists I look up to.”

Gina Girgis is majoring in biomedical and computer science at Troy University, making her a role model for young women and a pioneer in a field—biomedical sciences—with relatively few Egyptian women. She excelled academically at the Taymour English School in Alexandria and achieved a perfect score of 800 on the Biology SAT subject test and top scores on the other admissions tests. She also served as a senior council advisor in Egypt’s equivalent of the Girl Scouts, organizing volunteer trips to orphanages and nursing homes, and as an educational assistant in the Alexandria Youth Studies Association. In addition, she is a volleyball player and an amateur mosaic artist. In 2013, she participated in an amateur mosaic competition sponsored by Bibliotheca Alexandria in conjunction with Safina Creation Center in Alexandria and won an award for Best Non-Professional Mosaic Project.

A rising star in Egypt’s youth robotics community, Yehya El-Masry is majoring in computer engineering at Northwestern University. He ranked first in his class at Taymour English School in Alexandria and achieved top scores on his college admissions tests, including a perfect score of 800 on the Math level I SAT subject test. Beginning at age 12, Yehya led his robotics team through 13 national and international robotics competitions, placing first nine times. The competitions have taken him around the world, including China, Russia, the United States, and Malaysia, and he also spent a year of high school in the United States on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange Study (YES) program. The YES experience inspired him to serve his home community in Egypt by volunteering to teach children basic robotics programming. Additionally, Yehya is a self-taught German language learner and a member of his school’s track team.

A budding scholar with an inquisitive spirit, Mohamed Nawwar is majoring in physics and astronomy at Central Washington University. He graduated from Ismail el Habrouk Language School, an Egyptian public school in Damanhour, at the top of his class and scored high on the TOEFL and college admissions tests. He was selected as one of two students from Egypt to participate in a German exchange program, was a member of the Model Arab League, and served as the project manager for two community groups focusing on youth education. Mohamed also founded “Yalla Nefham” (“Alright, We Get It”), an initiative that seeks to explain modern physics in a simple dialogue format in order to better educate and engage younger students in the subject. 


After learning at age seven that he had diabetes, Adnan Ali-Hassan often experienced ignorance, stereotypes, and negative reactions toward his condition. As he grew older, he was determined to change people’s perception and as he did, he changed the lives of many people. He and his mother convinced the local health care co-op to cover many of the costs associated with diabetes treatment, and at eight years old he began giving presentations to raise awareness about the disease. “One of my friends back then learned that she had diabetes thanks to one of those activities,” he remembers proudly. Adnan has earned a scholarship from NYU Abu Dhabi to study mechanical engineering and biology. His future plans include completing a master’s degree in biomedical engineering and conducting professional research on diabetes. One day he hopes to found a company that offers life-changing solutions for diabetics. 

Rachel Chehayeb holds the promise of becoming a skilled doctor as well as a leading activist. Her interests are many and diverse, and her achievements numerous, including the Model UN’s Diplomacy award, the SABIS Stars Debate Championship in Dubai, and the tenth-highest grade nation-wide on the Lebanese official exams. Rachel inherited her passion for medicine from both her parents—a doctor and a pharmacist. Eager to help those in need, she has volunteered with the Red Cross and the Green Hand NGO’s library and to help Syrian refugee children. Rachel, who is majoring in biology at Yale University, hopes to eventually return to Lebanon to specialize in medicine and found an NGO that fundraises for those who cannot afford the treatment they need.

Ralph Haddad is majoring in entrepreneurship and music at Babson College, seeking to combine his love for music with his knack for business. He started playing the piano at the age of five and graduated with a degree in classical piano from the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music at 17, four years earlier than his peers. He has taken jobs with the Rahbani brothers, played with opera singer Edgard Aoun, arranged a full track, and even written orchestration for 160 musical instruments. His talent for business expressed itself early when he founded “Gawgela”—a customized web guide to all categories of Lebanese businesses. Impressively, the platform’s success has attracted offers from potential buyers. 

Youssef Karam’s career path was shaped by regular visits to his grandmother’s farm as a child, where he developed a love for nature and farming. He is majoring in agricultural engineering at Purdue University in order to learn advanced techniques that could be applied in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley and elsewhere, and to pursue his larger dream of helping to end world hunger. He believes that better agriculture results in better industry and therefore a better economic outlook for countries. “I chose agricultural engineering specifically because, instead of us adapting to the plant’s survival conditions, we can make the plant adapt to us,” Youssef says.

Georges Sankary has a passion for chemistry that never goes unnoticed in any conversation. Now majoring in biomedical engineering at Notre Dame University, he will be able to direct his knowledge and enthusiasm for organic chemistry to the pursuit of practical medical applications. His father, a diesel mechanic, and his mother, an English language teacher in Tripoli, were incredibly proud—and relieved—when Georges, the eldest of their three boys, won a scholarship from Notre Dame. With a sharp mind and a good heart, Georges was inspired by own childhood experiences to volunteer at his church, where he taught children the Bible and raised money to help support them.

Abdelhalim Zaazaa is majoring in astrophysics and economics at Colgate University. His fascination with outer space began at an early age and, by the time he reached eighth grade, he already decided to major in astrophysics. He grew up as the youngest and only boy in a family that highly values education and instilled in him a thirst for knowledge and academic excellence. He spent years in the Model United Nations and Model Arab League and took part in countless science fairs. While he is excited to major in astrophysics, he is double majoring in his other passion, economics, out of his determination to return home and benefit his homeland. He aspires to both serve as Lebanon’s Central Bank governor and conduct research at NASA.


Despite the many obstacles Jad Aljabi has faced growing up in a worn-torn country, he has managed to excel academically while finding ways to give back to his community, such as volunteering to teach English to youth with difficult family situations, distributing food to displaced peoples in Syria, and cooking meals for the poor during the month of Ramadan. Jad is majoring in information technology and integrated energy management at the University of Denver and is keen to take advantage of the high quality of education he will have in the United States. “Due to the circumstances occurring in my country, my family’s been through a lot, which has led to a lot of major changes in my life,” Jad notes. “Having to cope with these changes has shaped me to be more careful, prudent, and focused on my studies.”

Luna Noofoory’s path to the DKSSF and Monmouth College was a long one, beginning in 2012 when her family fled the war in Syria and settled in Beirut. Facing hardships and instability, Luna worried that she wouldn’t be able to pursue her higher education goals, but she used those concerns as motivation to seek out opportunities early and often. She learned about the DKSSF program while in high school and, with help and guidance from AMIDEAST’s educational advisers, began applying to colleges in the United States. In 2014, she received a scholarship to Monmouth College, a liberal arts college recommended by her advisers because of its strong undergraduate programs and proven history of student support. “I am very grateful for the doors this program opened for me,” Luna says, “and will work very hard to make the most of this fantastic opportunity.”


A well-rounded, motivated leader in his local community, Haroun Chahed graduated from the Pioneer High School of Sousse, spending one of those high school years in the United States through the YES program. His interests range from volunteerism and science to debate and sports. He founded “Positifs,” a youth community service organization with over a hundred active members, launched a debate club, and completed an internship at a photography studio. He has also competed in various science fairs, earning a third-place finish in a national competition and a fifth-place finish in an international fair. Haroun received a scholarship from Yale-NUS College in Singapore, where he is developing his passion for public service by majoring in public administration, while continuing to pursue his many other interests.

During high school at the Bourguiba Pioneer School, Walid Hedidar served as vice president of the Tunisian International Model UN club and was a member of the theatre club. He also spent a year in Minnesota on the YES program, where he completed an incredible 334 hours of community service, conducted a research project about the Amish community, and also learned how to ski and ice skate. This immersion experience deepened Walid’s knowledge and interest in the role of culture in all societies, helping him earn a scholarship from the University of Denver, where he majors in cultural anthropology and sociology.  “Besides my passion for these two fields. I also see in them a vision about culture that is the key to solving a lot of problems in the world,” he explains. “Being granted this scholarship is the first step in my journey of building on my skills and passions in order to make a difference in Tunisia and the world.”

Meryem Zaghdoudi is majoring in biology at St. Olaf College, a small liberal arts college in Minnesota. Hailing from Ain Draham, a small town in northwestern Tunisia, she fell in love with Minnesota while living in St. Paul as a YES student and is excited to be able to return there to pursue her undergraduate studies. She works in the chemistry department, aligning with her academic interests, while also taking advantage of St. Olaf’s extracurricular opportunities to pursue her interests in music, dance, and student government. Eager to bring change through policy, she ran for the St. Olaf Senate and was elected an international senator.