Providing a Ladder of Opportunity for MENA Youth

Meet two bright young women from Egypt and Yemen who have been on a path of achievement since they joined the English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program.

Hadeel Al-Hubaishi, a junior at the American University of Beirut, considers the Access Program to have been "the starting point" of her journey from Yemen to becoming the person she is today and to what she has achieved. Omnia, an Access alumna from Egypt, recounts how the Access Program gave her self-confidence and skills that helped her to realize her dream of admission to medical school.

Hadeel's Story

A strong independent streak and desire to learn English led Hadeel Al-Hubaishi to the Access Program during her first year of high school. Once in the program, she quickly realized that she would gain more than English language skills: the Access program taught her the value of community service and of an open, inquisitive mind, and provided her with the space to develop her leadership skills. She learned that volunteering to help others, particularly those in serious need, is one of the best ways to give back to one’s community. “The Access Program,” Hadeel says, “is definitely my starting point to becoming the person I am today and to what I have achieved.”

The Access Program is definitely my starting point to becoming the person I am today and to what I have achieved." — Hadeel

The Access Program also introduced her to the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, and helped her develop the English skills that would enable her to get the most out of the year-long high school exchange program. Spending the year in Lee, Massachusetts allowed Hadeel to experience American culture firsthand and further expand her intellectual and social horizons.

Hadeel’s hard work and success in the Access and YES programs opened additional doors that now allow her to continue pursuing her academic, professional, and personal goals. After returning to Yemen and graduating high school, Hadeel earned a Tomorrow’s Leaders (TL) scholarship through AMIDEAST and the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) to pursue her undergraduate degree at the American University of Beirut (AUB). Currently, she is participating in an AUB semester-abroad program at the University of Pennsylvania. She will earn her bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a dual concentration in management and entrepreneurship, in June 2018. 

Hadeel has the additional distinction of being one of the cofounders of the first roller-blading team in Lebanon.  She is pursuing this new passion with her characteristic high energy, earning her the nickname of “Tiny Shiny” as a powerhouse on AUB’s roller derby team. 

When asked to identify what has had the biggest impact on her life, Hadeel is quick to highlight the support and encouragement of her family. Just as quickly, however, she adds the trio of AMIDEAST programs—Access, YES, and TL—and the “positive change” they have generated in her. Each has opened doors to new experiences, while simultaneously developing the valuable skills and knowledge necessary to seize the next opportunity. “The experiences and especially the people I met during these programs, […] helped me to be a better person,” Hadeel says, “more independent, responsible, mature, flexible, and, most importantly, more ambitious.”

Omnia's Story

In an interview with the Regional English Language Office (RELO) at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Omnia told her story, excerpted here:

“The hardest type of struggle is to struggle against yourself, to struggle against being weak, cowardly and ordinary.

At first I used to be so ordinary, following the crowd. I didn’t want to do anything exciting. The slow pace of life was my favorite type of life. I was afraid to change, afraid of challenges and afraid of loss. But there was always a scream inside of me that woke up the hidden dream. I have always wanted to study abroad.

I heard about the Kennedy-Lugar YES exchange program to study abroad for one high school year. I applied and I got rejected. That was the alarm that woke me up out of the ordinary boring life. I asked myself a question, 'Will I really leave my dream behind?' The answer came strong and clear from deep down in me: 'NEVER!'

My year in the USA was the experience of a lifetime. I will never forget anything, even the little things." — Omnia

At that time, I started to realize that there are a lot of things I needed to work on to improve my personality. … I also heard about the Access program. I felt that this was the chance that was going to change my entire life. I applied and luckily I got selected. From there, I started to feel that I was on the right track, and the hope started to sparkle again in front of my eyes.

During my participation in the Access program, I felt the change, not only in the language which was one of my dreams — to master English and be able to talk and understand native speakers — but also my personality. Access improved a lot of skills inside of me such as team work, presentation skills and getting out of my shyness zone. I was also exposed to some American culture events and aspects. Access has really built my personality.

Now I felt ready enough to apply again to the YES program. I felt ready to go and discover a new culture and lifestyle. Once more, I was lucky to get accepted, and I traveled to the USA. I was hosted in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

My year in the USA was the experience of a lifetime. I will never forget anything, even the little things. I had a wonderful host family that really proved to me that home does not have to be where your biological family is, but where your heart relates. Until today we talk and feel that we are family. Simply, they were not a family for a year; they were a family for life.

When I returned to Egypt, I was a completely different person, more mature. My look to everything has changed. I look at everything as an opportunity. I became a self-confident person. I became independent. I also gave English courses for the first time in my life to two groups of students. One group was around 18 years old and the other group was around 20 to 26 years old.

I was 18 years old at that time. I had my senior year in high school in Egypt, which was the scariest thing in every Egyptian’s life. Whenever I feel down and stressed, I remember that I CAN. I did achieve a dream that was almost impossible to me. I got through hard times. I passed this year with another great achievement: I got a really high score and I joined medical school as I have always dreamed of.

My dreams have no limits. Each dream I dreamt of and I achieved made me fly even more and more, gave me confidence that I can be the change I want to see in the world."


Click here to read Omnia's full interview.