Welcoming the Hope Fund Class of 2020

This year, the Hope Fund helped 14 new scholars gain admissions and scholarships for undergraduate studies beginning in 2020-21. We are pleased to introduce these outstanding young men and women from Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon.
Hope Fund Class of 2020, individual pictures

Abdul Rahman Abbas was born in the Nahr Al Bared Camp in Lebanon, where he lived a normal life until the war of 2007 caused his family to move to nearby Tripoli. Although no longer living in the camp, he considered it to be the epicenter of his life, where he spent his days with friends and relatives and at the UNRWA Nazareth Secondary School, where he graduated with top honors. Abdul Rahman is excited to study physics at Middlebury College, the first stage in an academic journey that he hopes will allow him to complete his graduate studies within 10 years and become a researcher in the sciences. “Getting this opportunity will help me to make my community better by applying my expected potential experiences to the daily life of the camp,” he says.

Ahmed Alassar grew up in Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, where he is a registered refugee. He attended UNRWA schools until grade nine and then moved to the public school system for high school. As a result of his strong academic performance and other competitive selection factors, Ahmed was awarded a United World Colleges (UWC) scholarship and attended UWC-USA in New Mexico. Ahmed attributes this success to the knowledge, skills, and life-changing experiences he gained through his participation in the U.S. Department of State-funded, Amideast-administered English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program and EducationUSA Academy. Ahmed has had a passion for engineering and understanding how things work ever since he can remember and looks forward to exploring that passion as a pre-engineering major at Lake Forest College.

Salim Alwazir is a determined and inquisitive young man from Gaza City. After completing an academic year of high school in the United States through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, he decided to return to the United States to pursue his undergraduate education in political science and economics. In addition to the strong academics offered by Gettysburg College, he is looking forward to continuing the intercultural experiences that he discovered while a YES student, which made him realize the importance of intellectual openness and problem-solving skills for our modern world. “I am very thankful to Amideast for its generous and kind support throughout the application process to reach my goal,” Salim says. “I am exhilarated about all that I will study and hope to take part in solving some of the challenges in my field.”

Marwa Anchassi has lived her entire life in Beirut, Lebanon, where she attended the Khalid Bin Al Walid School/Al Horj. She comes from a family of five, with an older brother and sister who already completed their education in the United States on scholarships earned through the Hope Fund. Marwa enjoys many activities, including basketball, cooking, and volunteering with Foodblessed, an NGO that prepares food for the underprivileged. She is looking forward to attending Smith College, where she plans to pursue a major in economics or psychology, or both, as she would like to gain a better understanding of both the economy and the “maze” that is the human mind.

Francis Habash, from Bethlehem in the West Bank, will be enrolled in Brigham Young University in fall 2020 and will major in applied mathematics. He was a participant of the U.S. government-funded English Access Microscholarship (Access) program at Amideast, where he studied English and American culture for two years. He feels that this will be the first step to achieving his goals. Francis has been always passionate about technology. His goal is not only to contribute to the emerging fields in computer science, but also improve and find solutions for the high-tech industry in his home country, particularly artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data science. Francis is also passionate about sports, particularly soccer and table tennis. Francis is looking forward to start this new experience at BYU. “I am excited to take on the challenge of adapting to a different culture and expanding my horizons. The Hope Fund and Amideast support me in all means to succeed."

Mohammed Mansour is from Rafah City, Gaza, where he attended both UNRWA and public schools. While in high school, he participated in both the English Access Microscholarship (Access) and the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs, taking full advantage of both opportunities to elevate his academic and language proficiencies. During the two programs, he also volunteered for different community service projects, developing his social awareness and leadership skills. Mohammed is studying environmental/environmental health engineering at Notre Dame University. “I am very grateful to have received so much support from Amideast,” he says. “I am especially happy to be in the Hope Fund program. It has enabled me to build upon my previous successes with competitive readiness to pursue a quality education in the United States.”

The youngest of five children, Ameer Mohra grew up in Gaza, where he graduated from Arafat Secondary Boys School, a highly selective, competitive government magnet school for gifted and talented students. An outstanding student, he excelled in the sciences, particularly computer science, and was active in extracurricular activities. He started learning about computers and programming after joining One Million Arab Programmers, a competitive opportunity that included online Android development courses from Google. He also participated in a robotics competition between schools in the Gaza Strip, developing a robot that could be moved by voice. Through that pivotal experience, he says, “I became aware of my true passion, computer science." Ameer is overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of pursuing his passion for computer science at Gettysburg College.

Eman Muamar, a registered refugee from Rafah City in the Gaza Strip, has ranked at the top of her class throughout her academic career, first at UNRWA schools and then public schools. She has pursued her passion for science and mathematics through frequent participation in science and math competitions. She also excelled in the English Access Microscholarship (Access) program, which helped her to qualify to spend a year of high school in the United States through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. As a YES student, she continued to stand out, engaging in over 200 hours of community service in her host community and taking part in a civic education workshop in Washington, D.C. Eman is looking forward to her studies at Washington and Lee University. “Since my first days in the Access program, I knew I wanted to pursue my academic goals at the highest possible level,” she says. “I trusted Amideast’s support would always be there to help fulfill that ambition. Indeed, that faith has become a reality today.”

Feras Natsheh, from Bethlehem in the West Bank, participated in two highly competitive U.S. government-funded programs, the two-year English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program at Amideast, during which he studied English and learned about American culture; and the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, which enabled him to spend the 2018-19 academic year in Washington state. Physics and astronomy are not Feras’s only interests; he is also passionate about sports and studied martial arts for many years. Feras plans to major in physics, with a minor in astronomy, at Whitman College. Grateful for this opportunity, he says, “I believe that there is more to learn and explore in the world. [This] scholarship will help me get closer to my future goals. I could not have made it this far without the Hope Fund, Amideast, and EducationUSA. My dream has become a reality. Thank you!”

Mohammed Qudaih is a registered refugee from Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. His parents instilled the value of higher education in Mohammed and his nine siblings, all of whom have completed a university degree or are in their studies. This has been a challenge for his parents, since they have limited sources of income, but they are determined to ensure that all of their children are afforded a quality education to the extent possible. After attending UNRWA schools until the ninth grade, Mohammed completed high school at a public school in Khan Younis. He credits the opportunities that he had at Amideast for enabling him to realize his dream of pursuing his higher education in the United States, starting with the Access program: “Learning English has been my goal since childhood, and I worked hard to be able to join the Access program, which helped me to develop my leadership skills while improving my English language skills.” Mohammed is looking forward to studying computer science at Bridgewater College.

Ghassan Saadeh, from Tulkarm, plans to major in chemical or mechanical engineering at Lehigh University, not surprisingly given his passion since childhood for figuring out how things work and how many small interactions between parts create a functioning machine. Ghassan, who hopes to eventually earn a master`s degree, is excited to return to the United States, where he spent an academic year on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, representing his country as a scholar-ambassador in the United States. Grateful to the Hope Fund for helping him achieve his goal, he says, “The Hope Fund offered tremendous help in many ways, especially general guidance on test preparation and college choices, which helped me land the scholarship. Thank you!”

Sarah Salah, a Palestinian refugee who has lived in Beirut her whole life, attended a Lebanese public school through sixth grade before having to switch to UNRWA schools when her public school ended and her parents couldn’t afford the alternative of a private school. Undaunted, she excelled in her studies while also serving as the president of her high school’s parliament for three consecutive years. Sarah plans to major in biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Richmond. She would also like to study international relations, after discovering a passion for it during Model United Nations and deepening her understanding of the causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "I want to proudly represent my country, Palestine, and change how people around the world perceive both Palestine and refugees in general."

Salma Shaksher, from Nablus, plans to major in neuroscience at Brigham Young University. She is looking forward to getting the most out of this opportunity and returning to her home country with new ideas. Salma appreciates the guidance and counseling she received as a high school student, especially through the Hope Fund, which enabled her to define her college goals and apply successfully for admission and the scholarship support that made her dream of study in the United States possible. Salma says, “Applying to colleges was a hard process but the Hope Fund made it easier. I encourage every high school student who wants to study in the United States to apply to the Hope Fund program.”

Osama Shihada grew up in Khan Younis City as a registered refugee and attended both UNRWA and public schools. Despite the pain of losing his mother at an early age, Osama consistently achieved academic excellence while further pursuing his passion for technology and computers. “For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by how computers work,” he says. “I had a knack for finding solutions to technical errors, and the more I practiced it, the more I developed my problem-solving and self-learning skills.” Osama has enhanced his computer skills by taking free online courses and starting his own blog. He also developed English language proficiency and leadership skills by participating in the English Access Microscholarship (Access) program. With this background, Osama is thrilled that he will be starting formal academic study of computer science at Bridgewater College.