We’re pleased to congratulate 15 graduating seniors this year. They are an impressive group, as their stories will tell you.

For Mohamed Abo Sakr, education represented a pathway out of the Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon, where he grew up—an escape, in his words, from the “misfortunes” and “feelings of alienation, hopelessness, and the plain lack of passion” that characterized life there. With the help of the Hope Fund, he received a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Along the way, he contributed to campus life by playing percussion in an Arabic music ensemble, joined Engineers Without Borders, and was on one of the winning teams in last year’s Penn YPrize competition. His outstanding academics opened doors to research opportunities, a summer internship in South Korea, and the scholarship now covering his studies for his master’s degree at UPenn. Mohammed envisions giving back to his community as a mentor, a reflection of his gratitude and appreciation for the life-changing opportunity he has received. “I honestly cannot conceptualize how my life would be without the opportunity the Hope Fund has given me,” he said.Mohamed Abo Sakr_Crop
Mohammad Abudayyeh has achieved significant and well-deserved success, taking full advantage of opportunities available through AMIDEAST. After excelling in the two-year English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program and spending a year of high school in the United States on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, Mohammad received a full scholarship from Washington and Lee University in Virginia through the Hope Fund. He graduated this May with a degree in chemical engineering. Earlier this year the Physics and Engineering Department selected him for the 2016 H. Thomas Williams Jr. Undergraduate Research Scholarship, an annual award that recognizes excellence in faculty-directed research. Mohammad Abu Dayyeh (LinkedIn)_Crop
After graduating from high school, Mahmoud Abu Eid was concerned about a future that offered little opportunity for a job or higher education for youth in the refugee camp in Zarqa, Jordan, where he grew up. Not ready to give up, Mahmoud turned to where most young people look for information—the internet. That is how he learned about the Hope Fund. Although the possibility of obtaining a full scholarship to study at a U.S. university seemed far-fetched, he completed his application and hoped for the best. Fast forward to 2016, and Mahmoud’s dream has come true: this spring he graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, with a triple major in biology, chemistry, and biochemistry and molecular biology. While at Gustavus, he engaged in research in his fields of study and was honored to present his study of cleft lip and palate care in the Middle East at a research symposium in fall 2015. Despite his significant accomplishments, Mahmoud knows that he has many goals yet in his life to pursue. “Thank you to the Hope Fund and for everyone who made a dream of mine come true,” he said. “The road is long and full of obstacles but I chose to fight and push through because I want to show everyone that I deserved this opportunity and worked hard for it.” Mahmoud Abu Eid Graduation 2016_Crop2
When Ibrahim AbuNada arrived at Bridgewater College in Virginia, he was prepared to study medicine. His plans changed, however, as he discovered, with the help of his advisors and professors, his true passion—chemistry. Taking advantage of a college environment that encourages students to work one-on-one with their professors, Ibrahim excelled in his new program and graduated with a degree in chemistry in December 2015. In addition to his academic success, Ibrahim thrived in a diverse campus environment that allowed him to explore new experiences and broaden his perspective on life — participating, for example, in the student organization Comitatus, a German swordsmanship club. His time at Bridgewater complete, Ibrahim will now pursue a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ibrahim recognizes that the Hope Fund helped open the doors to new opportunities, and he is prepared to step through those doors to achieve his goals. “I will utilize everything I have towards changing my fate for the better,” he said, “because that is what the Hope Fund has done for me.”2015Ibrahim Abunada_Crop
Hadil Ayoub made the most of her opportunities during high school in Nablus by advancing through the Access, YES, and Abraham Lincoln Incentive Grant programs, before being matched with a full scholarship to Barnard College through AMIDEAST’s Diana Kamal Scholarship Search Fund (DKSSF). While at Barnard, the environmental science major participated in the U.S. Department of State’s NeXXt Scholars Program and actively pursued her research interest in the impact of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on groundwater quality. In addition to her scientific research, Hadil was active in campus groups focused on social justice and took advantage of the thriving arts scene in New York City. Her vision for her future includes furthering her education. “I would like to work and explore the different directions that I could take with a major as diverse in its applications as environmental science,” she said. “I hope that this experience would help prepare me for the next step, which is going to grad school for a Ph.D.”Hadil Ayoub cr3_Crop
West Bank native Shorouk Badir is developing herself into a leader and a role model in the STEM field. As a chemistry major at Bryn Mawr College, Shorouk conducted research into the total synthesis of the inhibitor molecules of IDO1, an enzyme with significant capabilities in immunotherapy treatments. She developed herself into a leader on campus and—of particular note—she founded the Voices for Palestine Club, where she hosted many events to raise awareness about Palestinian culture. But it was her experience as a Peer Lead Instructor (PLI), tutoring students in chemistry for two years, that led Shorouk to discover her passion for teaching. She will now pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania as part of her journey into a career in academia. Through her profession, she hopes to inspire more people—especially women—to study chemistry and other STEM-related fields. Shorouk Badir_Bryn Mawr cr_Crop
Mahmoud El Hazzouri graduated from Roanoke College in Virginia with degrees in math and physics. He was very active on campus, participating in the physics and math clubs and the honor societies for both fields, as well as several other student groups focused on diversity and multiculturalism. Since graduating, he has returned home to Lebanon while making plans to return to the United States next year for graduate school. Mahmoud is excited to start the next chapter in his life, and is thankful to the Hope Fund for opening the doors to his education in the United States—an opportunity that allowed him to grow and create a bright future for himself. He stressed that, for many Palestinians, that is exactly what they need—opportunity. “Opportunities are the key to development,” he said, adding, “I truly find it inspiring to promote the idea that nothing is impossible, and that you can get wherever you want in life as long as you work hard and believe in yourself.” Mahmoud El Hazzouri_Crop
Shurouq Hijazi graduated from the University of Rochester (UR), in Upstate New York, with a degree in electrical and computer engineering and a minor in business. During her time at UR, Shurouq flourished academically, coauthoring a book chapter, publishing in two journals, and presenting one of her research projects at a conference. She also received the faculty award from UR’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Beyond academics, Shurouq valued UR’s vibrant campus life and participated in several student organizations and causes including the Student Association for the Development of Arab Cultural Awareness (SADACA), and even studied in Madrid, Spain, for a semester. “The eye-opening college experience I had has definitely shaped the person I am today,” Shurouq said. “The lessons I learned at UR will definitely have a lasting effect on my professional and personal career for years to come.” Now that she has graduated, she will begin her career as a technology consultant at Ernst & Young in New York City. Eyeing the future, she wants to effect positive change in Palestine in the areas of cyber security and education reform.Shurouq Hijazi_Crop2
Kamal Kaddoura graduated from Bridgewater College in Virginia with a degree in physics and a minor in mathematics. In addition to his intellectual, ethical, and emotional development, Kamal valued the diverse opportunities encountered during his college experience—everything from meeting new friends and playing new sports to attending his first physics conference, and even presenting his honors project on several occasions. Kamal will begin a Ph.D. program in mechanical engineering next fall at one of several schools to which he has been accepted with funding offers. Although he is finding great individual success, Kamal also stressed the need to use his education, skills, and experiences to benefit his community. “I am proud to say that I was a Hope Fund student,” he said. “I would like to share my story and experience to encourage students to pursue a higher quality education. I would like to be able to use my degree to benefit the general community in Lebanon as well by making it a better place.”Kamal Kaddoura_Crop
Tala AlRaheb graduated from St. Olaf College, in Minnesota, with degrees in both psychology and religion. She is interested in the connections between the two fields, and in fact was able to explore these connections while at St. Olaf through a research project into the psychology of faith development. Tala was active on campus, serving as the president of the group Oles for Justice in Palestine, was a member of the Theology Club and the Interfaith Coalition, and was selected as an Admissions Fellow during her senior year. Through the admissions fellowship, she had the opportunity to speak with prospective students about her experience at St. Olaf. She also completed an internship in psychological counseling in her home town of Bethlehem. Tala will be attending Emory University to pursue a master’s degree in theological studies in the Candler School of Theology, and has plans to become a professor. With her knowledge and skills, Tala would like to improve the education system in Palestine.Tala Al Raheb_Crop
Hope Fund student Iyyad Rayyan makes a habit of jumping at opportunities and maximizing his potential. The recent graduate from Grand View University (GVU), in Iowa, was a triple major in accounting, finance, and information systems management. In addition to his heavy course load, Iyyad completed seven different internships, was president of the Business Club, served as chief financial officer (CFO) for the GVU student body, and received numerous honors and awards. One of his internships was with the World Food Prize Foundation, an experience that opened his eyes to the millions of people across the globe who suffer from poverty and malnutrition. “[…] Sometimes we get so hung up in our own lives,” Iyyad said, “and forget about the suffering that millions of people around the world have to face on a daily basis.” With his graduation, Iyyad will remain in Des Moines, Iowa, as an associate with PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC), a prestigious multinational firm specializing in financial and professional services. Iyyad Rayyan_Crop
As a Palestinian refugee growing up in Amman, Jordan, Mohammad Sarhan came from very humble means. Although his family didn’t have much money, Mohammad made his education a top priority and in 2008, he was awarded a scholarship to attend the King’s Academy high school in Jordan. After graduating, he earned a full scholarship to attend the College of Wooster in Ohio, where he recently completed his degree in international relations with a minor in economics. The highlight of his college career was a senior thesis project—for which he received the "honors" distinction—in which he investigated the relationship between refugee economic rights and conflict spillovers. While at Wooster he furthered his academic and professional interests by becoming an international student ambassador and serving as vice president of the college’s Model United Nations team. He has completed several internships, including as a fellow at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) in Washington, DC. His academic work has helped him to develop the knowledge and tools necessary to bring about positive change in his community and wider Palestinian society. Mohammad hopes to acquire a Ph.D. in international relations.Mohammed Sarhan_Crop2
When Ghada Tafesh joined the Access Program in 2010, little did she imagine how it would change her life. The determined teenager from Gaza thrived in the two-year program, which helped her qualify for the YES Program, in which she spent a year of high school in Maryland. She returned home but dreamed of continuing her studies in the United States. Assisted by AMIDEAST's Diana Kamal Scholarship Search Fund (DKSSF), Ghada received a full scholarship to attend Wilson College, where she double-majored in biology and English and consistently made the dean’s list. She also participated in the highly selective NeXXt Scholars Program for outstanding young women in STEM and won the Robert Shannon McElwain Prize, awarded each year to Wilson’s top mathematics student. Ghada graduated magna cum laude this spring and will soon start a master’s degree in English literature. “I learned that the sky is the limit and as long as you believe in yourself, nothing is impossible. I want to make a difference by inspiring young Palestinians and encouraging them to develop the leadership skills I have gained as a Wilson student.”Ghada Tafesh_Crop2
“The Hope Fund was a turning point in my life,” says Nisreen Zaqout, a refugee from Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip. She embraced the opportunity provided by The Hope Fund and graduated from Illinois College with a bachelor’s degree in political science, economics, and gender and women’s studies. Coming from a big family, it is perhaps no surprise that Nisreen also became interested in debate, honing her skills as a member of Illinois College’s official debate team. She also furthered her interest in gender studies through an internship last summer with Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, DC-based NGO that works to train and develop emerging women leaders across the world. Having found great success in her undergraduate studies, Nisreen plans to go to graduate school with an eye toward a career focusing on women’s empowerment in the Middle East.Nisreen Zaqout_Crop