Congratulations to Our 2019 Hope Fund Graduates!

Heartfelt congratulations to six Hope Fund scholars who graduated this past academic year.

Angham, Ahmed, Suhaila, Fayzeh, Saifeddin, and Layal (clockwise from top left) took advantage of the opportunities afforded by the Hope Fund, excelling in their studies and in diverse extracurricular activities as they prepared themselves for future challenges. Read their stories below to learn why we are proud of the accomplishments of these outstanding young men and women.

Saifeddin Abdalrahman graduated at the end of summer from the University of Rochester with a B.S. in chemical engineering and a B.A. in physics. The self-described “Entrepreneur Coach & soon-to-be Chemical Engineer” comes from Gaza, where he participated in two competitive U.S. Department of State-funded programs managed by AMIDEAST: The English Access Microscholarship Program and the Abraham Lincoln Grants program. At UoR, he added more honors, including an Olayan Foundation Fellowship award, Rochester National Grant, and Genesee Scholarship. Saif, who says he’s “curious, about everything,” took advantage of opportunities for research and completed humanities and social sciences clusters in Spanish studies and psychology. In the coming year, Saif plans to perform independent research related to the technology industry, online education, and business administration and teach physics, with an eye on beginning an MBA program in fall 2020. Saif is grateful to AMIDEAST and, especially, the Hope Fund for “provid[ing] me with various privileges that made opportunities more accessible.”

Fayzeh El Banna graduated from Carleton College with a degree in biology and biochemistry. A Palestinian refugee who grew up in Lebanon, she appreciated the school's rigorous academic program as well as opportunities to play rugby, take music lessons, volunteer at a local hospital, and participate in research and internships. Next year, she will be conducting research at the University of Minnesota’s medical school while preparing to start a PhD program in pharmacology — acquiring knowledge that she hopes one day will enable her to contribute to the mental health awareness movement in the Middle East. “From providing guidance and supervision during the application process four years ago to the ongoing support and assistantship throughout my college journey, AMIDEAST played a great part in making this experience possible and wholesome.”

Suhaila El Banna, Fayzeh’s sister, graduated from St. Olaf College with a double major in environmental studies and political science. While at St. Olaf, Suhaila valued the opportunity to meet people from different backgrounds and the opportunities she had to work on campus and in internships in different cities — experiences that she feels prepared her to be “more flexible in the way that I see my path in life.” She plans to take a gap year or two to prepare to pursue a master’s degree in water engineering, while working as a water management specialist. Longer term, she hopes to return home to use her degree to raise awareness of the importance of conservation and how people can protect their natural resources. Suhaila thanks AMIDEAST and the Hope Fund for helping her realize her potential; “they prepared me well to succeed in my educational career as well as giving me the chance to be able to go to a good university and practice my right of having the chance to succeed in life and make a change.”

Layal Issa was born and raised in Tripoli, Libya, and now lives in Saida, Lebanon. She graduated from Columbia College in South Carolina with a double major in computer information science and public affairs. In addition to serving as a student mentor and internships at two local banks, Layal received first and second place for her poetry in Columbia College’s annual literary and art magazine The Criterion, the longest running women’s college literary and art magazine in the United States. Layal valued the cultural diversity and many educational opportunities that she found at Columbia, as well as the lengths to which professors go to help students succeed. Today, as she thinks of how she could help girls back home, she envisions establishing a summer camp in Saida that focuses on women in technology and their empowerment in that field. “[AMIDEAST and the Hope Fund] have become a second home to me, and I know I will give back in any way that I can.”

Angham Jaradat graduated from Monmouth College with a major in international business and minors in economics and political science. Angham, who grew up on the West Bank, was an active member of the White and Crimson Leadership Society and Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. She was also a student athlete, excelling at both soccer and lacrosse. Angham is an alumna of the Access and Lincoln Grants programs, as well as the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. Because of the difference these programs made in her life, she hopes to give others the same support she had, through scholarships or English courses. “I will always be thankful for the opportunities and support I received that made me the graduate I am today, None of this would have been possible without AMIDEAST and the Hope Fund Program, they truly changed my life.”

Ahmed Zaqout, from Gaza, graduated from Roanoke College, where he majored in international relations and economics with a concentration in peace and justice studies. Ahmed thoroughly enjoyed the variety of courses available at his college and the willingness of students and professors to discuss complex, controversial topics. He enriched his academic experience by joining the Model United Nations and Model Arab League, and playing varsity sports. “All my studies here have provided me with the knowledge necessary to devise tools adequate to positively give back to my community... AMIDEAST and the Hope Fund have given me the opportunity to obtain an education that pushed my boundaries and made me a more grateful and understanding person.”