Congratulating Our 2020 DKSSF Graduates

This year 14 scholars in the Diana Kamal Scholarship Search Fund (DKSSF) program completed their undergraduate studies. We congratulate these outstanding young men and women from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia for their accomplishments and wish them future success.

EGYPT

Asem Abdelfattah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Troy University, where “the ubiquity of opportunities to learn, create, and grow” stood out as the most valuable aspect of his college experience. He took full advantage of these opportunities, not least by contributing to the school’s newspaper as a photographer, staff writer, editor, and eventually the director of business development. He also cofounded and organized Troy’s first TEDx event, TEDxTroyUniversity. Asem is continuing at Troy for a master’s degree in economics. He credits AMIDEAST with “ma[king] this whole journey possible…I was afforded the chance to pursue my passion, explore more of the world, and to learn, grow, and thrive.”

Yehya Elmasry graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in computer engineering. He helped cofound and lead the Northwestern Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles Club and build a Formula-style race car as a member of the Northwestern Formula Racing Club. He also developed a love for research and plans to pursue graduate studies and work in research-related jobs, with the long-term goal of creating technologies that make people’s daily lives easier. An alum of the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program and the Competitive College Club, Yehya says, “I am grateful for AMIDEAST’s support through its various programs, which helped me realize my dream of earning my undergraduate degree in the United States.”

Gina Girgis completed bachelor’s degrees in computer science and mathematics at Troy University. Interested in “making technology more human-centered so that it can serve people and their needs,” she took music, Spanish, German, and psychology alongside her technically demanding STEM coursework. In addition, she participated in conferences, research, and internships. To prepare herself to research affective artificial intelligence, Gina is pursuing her PhD in computer and information science at Rochester Institute of Technology. “None of this would have been possible without AMIDEAST or DKSSF,” says Gina. “What I am doing now, it’s like out of a science fiction book.”

An honors graduate of Central Washington University (CWU) with a major in physics and minor in mathematics, Mohamed Nawwar is beginning a PhD program this fall in materials science and engineering at Ohio State University. Mohamed fell in love with scientific exploration and the discovery of new materials in CWU’s research labs. He also participated in a UN conference for emergent leaders in Thailand. Keen to give back, he is already offering guidance to students back home in Egypt about international education and coordinating with others on research projects to improve the Egyptian economy. Mohamed is grateful to the DKSSF, stating, “Simply put: If it weren’t for DKSSF, I would have never had this exceptional education experience…and for that I am forever grateful.”

LEBANON

Adnan Ali-Hassan graduated from NYU Abu Dhabi with a degree in mechanical engineering. He valued the opportunities he had to work with people at the top of their fields, while having the liberty to work on his own research. Also important was the chance to discover activities he didn’t know existed, such as competitive dragon boating, and complete a semester at NYU’s campus in New York City. Adnan has begun a master’s program at Concordia University in Montreal in support of his long-standing goal of improving the lives of people with type 1 diabetes. Looking back, he writes that his DKSSF experience “made me realize that I am not limited to what’s around me. That if there is a will, there is a way. And that this way exists somewhere in the world, and I just have to look for it.”

Rachel Chehayeb graduated from Yale University with dual degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and is now in her first year of medical school at the Yale School of Medicine. Rachel loved every part of her undergraduate experience, serving as president of both the Yale Undergraduates for UNICEF and the Yale Global Medical Brigades and conducting significant research in biochemistry. She also volunteered at a local health clinic as an Arabic translator for patients. Rachel credits the support of the DKSSF for guiding her through the college application process and making studying in the United States feasible and accessible, noting, “I’m beyond grateful for all the program has done for me and will always be indebted to DKSSF for allowing me to actualize my dreams.”

Ralph Haddad graduated from Babson College with degrees in entrepreneurship and music. He took advantage of the school’s strong entrepreneurship focus to launch a design studio and a retail tech startup while also pursuing his passion for music as a member of the Babson Music Collective, performing all over Boston and even at the Casino De Madrid in Spain! Starting this fall, Ralph is pursuing a master's degree in data and business analytics with the support of a scholarship from Babson, while continuing to work on his startups. Looking back, he observes, “The DKSSF not only changed my life, but the life of my family going into the future. I am forever thankful and blessed to be part of this family. I am forever indebted.”

Georges Sankary graduated from Notre Dame University with a B.S. in computer engineering. He valued many aspects of his undergraduate program, including the opportunity to conduct research, complete a summer internship in Ireland, and sing in the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir. He also appreciated the ability to explore his interests under the guidance of “great and inspiring instructors.” Georges is beginning a PhD program in computer engineering at Texas A&M on a merit fellowship. Summing up the impact of the DKSSF on his life, he says, “In short, it gave a student in need of an opportunity the chance to become a better and more complete person. I owe so much to AMIDEAST, and I honestly think that it is a debt that cannot be repaid!”

Abdul Halim Zaazaa graduated from Colgate University with a double major in economics and international relations, having switched paths from astrophysics after taking philosophy and economics courses. He also served in student government and completed a semester abroad in Switzerland. Abdul Halim, who has started a master’s degree program in public policy at Georgetown University, hopes to return to Lebanon and “help, [in] whichever way… possible. I would go as far as to say I am dedicating my career to Lebanon’s wellbeing.” Acknowledging the support of the DKSSF, he says, “The DKSSF certainly helped me achieve my undergraduate educational goals. The program helped me pay my tuition and study abroad, which turned out to be the best experience I’ve had. I’m so grateful.”

SYRIA 

Jad Al Jabi graduated from the University of Denver with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and minors in chemistry, mathematics, and computer science. After exploring multiple fields, he has decided to become a dentist. He is taking a year to intern at a dental clinic in Boulder, Colorado, and pursue a graduate certificate in public health while applying to dental schools. Although he was born into a generation that has suffered significantly in Syria, he shares that the DKSSF allowed him “to chase a dream that I never thought would be possible for someone in my situation. Because of the DKSSF, I have the knowledge and capabilities required to have a successful career and help my family, my community, and my country.”

Luna Noofoory graduated from Monmouth College, where she majored in political science and minored in French. Highlights of her college experience included meeting incredible and caring professors who challenged her to think and participating in the college’s orchestra. She describes her educational journey as “helping me grow not only academically, but also as a person.” Luna plans to gain work experience before pursuing a master’s degree and eventually working with the United Nations or an NGO to “make a difference in peoples’ lives.” Her dreams for the future would not have been possible without the DKSSF. “The support and encouragement that the people working with the DKSSF provided me really came a long way and pushed me to pursue my goals,” she says.

TUNISIA 

Haroun Chahed graduated with honors from Yale-National University of Singapore with a bachelor of science degree in mathematical, computational, and statistical sciences. Interested in a career in healthcare technology and driven by the potential to help combat the COVID-19 virus, he wrote a thesis analyzing the effect of a commonly used drug on patients with respiratory failure. Haroun has accepted a job in the healthcare division of a consulting company and plans to eventually attend graduate school. He credits the DKSSF for his exceptional college experience, from the guidance he received during the college application process to the financial support that allowed him to maximize his learning. “I will always be grateful to the DKSSF for changing my life,” he says.

Walid Hedidar graduated from the University of Denver with bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and international studies. An outstanding student, he was able to work closely with faculty on research projects and, while on study abroad in France, interned with the French Ministry of Education — experiences “key to my academic and professional development during my journey as an undergraduate student.” He also cofounded LEAPS Academy, a teacher-training startup for Tunisia and the MENA region. Beginning this fall, Walid is pursuing his master’s degree in international education development at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. He is “forever grateful to the DKSSF program for granting me access to an empowering and life-changing educational journey.”

Mariem Zaghdoudi graduated from St. Olaf’s College with degrees in biology and political science. She valued the people she met and the opportunities she had at the liberal arts college, including serving as a student representative on the St. Olaf Board of Regents and interning at the National Heart Center in Singapore. Committed to giving back to communities around the world through renewable energy, she plans to gain work experience at the Great Plains Institute before pursuing a master’s degree in public policy. Mariem is grateful to the DKSSF for making it possible for her to go to college: “This experience has set me up for success and advancement more than any other experience in my life. A college education is absolutely a privilege.”

To learn more about the DKSSF program, please click here.