Meet our current Hope Fund scholars!





Dalia Aita is a passionate young woman who aspires to a career in science. Her path to a scholarship at the New College in Sarasota, Florida, began in ninth grade, when she was accepted to the highly competitive English Access Microscholarship (Access) Program in Rafah, the Gaza Strip. An excellent student, Dalia was selected to spend a year in Oregon on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program and afterwards qualified for two other competitive scholarship programs: the Abraham Lincoln Grant program and the Hope Fund.  Dalia appreciates the freedom that the Hope Fund scholarship has given her. “Back home, I didn’t have the chance to express who I truly was. I was in a bubble,” she recalls. “Now I have a lot of opportunities, now I am open to the world.”



Mohammed Al-Asttal comes from Khan Yunis City in the Gaza Strip and is a freshman at the University of Oregon, thinking of double-majoring in international studies and business or civil society, fields that he believes will best prepare him to make an impact in his community. Mohammed grew up amid the anxiety and unrest typical of a childhood in Gaza. But a chance during eighth grade at his UNRWA school to join the Access Program, along with a year spent as a YES student in Oregon, changed his view of the world and his possibilities. As he begins his university studies, Mohammed appreciates the new “turning point” that the Hope Fund has offered for his life. In his words, “The Hope Fund is life changing. It’s definitely given me hope for a better future.”



Basel Arafat is excited to begin his studies at the University of Richmond, where he plans to major in computer science — his dream since he was seven years old — and minor in physics or mathematics. Basel, who grew up in Nablus, will also continue his love for track and field and cross country, a passion nourished during the year of high school that he spent in the United States with the YES Program. Happy to be in a challenging college environment, Basel says, “The Hope Fund means a lot to me because it’s an exceptional opportunity … It has really opened a lot of doors to me.” Looking ahead to the future, he adds that he hopes to have an opportunity to return to Palestine some day “to bring back what I’ve learned here …. Giving back is important to me because it’s like how I would feel good about myself.”




Yazan Ba’ara describes himself as inquisitive by nature, a dedicated student, and a self-starter who is committed to social entrepreneurship — traits that will serve him well at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he plans to double major in mechanical engineering and business. Although originally from Nablus, Yazan spent his early years in Saudi Arabia before settling with his family in Amman to complete high school and, he notes, get closer to his Palestinian roots. As he did so, he was motivated to volunteer as a mentor to Palestinian orphans and support other activities that further educational opportunity for underprivileged children — reflecting a degree of commitment that he expects will shape his long-term goals. “For me, giving isn’t for show. It’s for a real cause. It’s for furthering the Palestinian diaspora. It’s about the making the Arab world a more knowledgeable place to be.”




Mohammed El-Kurd came to the Hope Fund with a compelling story that has already garnered international media attention via a documentary focused on the impact on his life of the confiscation of his family’s home by settlers in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. He is a prolific and talented poet and writer, plus a painter and sketch artist.  He aspires to become a writer who contributes to his country’s cultural, artistic, and political life, as well as a voice for his people to the outside world. By studying in the United States, he hopes to acquire the education he needs to become an influential bilingual writer. “I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity,” Mohammed says. “The Hope Fund is not only investing in us as individual people, but in a whole homeland.”



Agnes Handal grew up in Bethlehem, where she graduated from Terra Sancta Sisters of Saint Joseph Girls School. She spent her junior year of high school as a YES student in Indiana, where she received a “scholar-athlete” award recognizing her high GPA and participation in varsity track, a sport not offered in her home country. Agnes has an eye on a career in international diplomacy in order to represent her country, and is therefore thinking of double-majoring in international relations and creative writing or public affairs. She has already participated in a panel discussion about the Palestinian issue at Roanoke College, where she is happy to be beginning her freshman year: “I love the community. People care about you and they show love, and I love it.”



Born and raised in Gaza, Iyad Hmidat is driven by a dream of a better future for his country and people. At Bridgewater College, he is double majoring in political science and economics with a minor in global studies as he seeks the education and practical experience that will help him achieve his goal of becoming a diplomat for Palestine and helping to provide solutions to the problems facing his society. Iyad attributes his decision to study in the United States, first as a YES student in high school and then as an undergraduate, to his conviction that, by sharing the experiences and knowledge he gains abroad, he can help find “solutions to some of our problems that we struggle [with] back home.”   Iyad, who has amply demonstrated that conviction through many hours of community service during his YES year and in Gaza, adds, “The Hope Fund gave me the chance to follow my dreams.



Growing up in Sidon, Yusuf Qaddura experienced firsthand the challenges that face Palestinians in Lebanon. After making the difficult transition from an UNRWA school in a refugee camp to a Lebanese high school, he was desperate for a college education that would allow him to pursue his passion for computers and mathematics. Through the Competitive College Club at AMIDEAST/Beirut and the Hope Fund, he earned a scholarship from Swarthmore College, where he is double majoring in computer science and applied mathematics. Yusuf hopes to obtain a doctorate that opens the door to a teaching or research career. He would also like to spread interest in mathematics among Arab youth and thereby advance their analytical skills.  “People living in such detrimental conditions, specifically in the refugee camps, find brilliant ways in order to facilitate their lives,” he observes. ”The youth especially deserve the opportunity that I got through the Hope Fund.”




Sami Zimmo participated in the YES and Abraham Lincoln programs before coming to the Hope Fund. An outstanding, passionate student who has always striven to be on top, he received a scholarship from Washington and Jefferson College through the Hope Fund. Sami aims to pursue a degree in engineering and believes that the Hope Fund program will enhance his potential and life skills. His departure from Gaza was too late for him to begin his studies this fall, but we look forward to his arrival in time for spring semester!





Said Alhosseini is a smart and driven young man with dreams undeterred by his experience growing up in war-torn Gaza Strip. After a year in the United States on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, he became one of the most active YES alumni in Gaza, bringing back the spirit of volunteerism and community service to help his community. Said’s multiple interests are a good match for the kind of multi-disciplinary liberal arts education offered by St. Olaf College. His many interests and potential major fields of study include international relations, politics, sociology, and anthropology.



Fayzeh El Banna



Fayza El Banna, an outstanding student with well-rounded interest, is majoring in biology at Carleton College. As a Palestinian refugee from Lebanon, she received her education from public and UNRWA  schools. Her fear of an uncertain future has pushed her to excel in her studies and seize every possible opportunity to become a better leader. She believes that becoming a Hope Fund student was the most important step toward achieving her goal of pursuing college studies in the U.S. Fayza hopes to attend medical school and pursue a career in medicine that enables her to provide medical relief for the deprived people in her society.


Suhaila El Banna


Suhaila El Banna plans to major in political science and environmental science at Hollins College. She cares strongly about human, environmental and women rights causes and selected a pre-law program because she wishes to spend her life fighting for justice and equality and helping the people in her society to become more tolerant and accepting of one another. A Palestinian refugee in Lebanon who faced many obstacles, Suhaila thanks the Hope Fund for helping her to overcome her financial difficulties and putting her on a path towards realizing her potential.


Layal Issa


Layal Issa was born and raised in Tripoli, Libya, and now lives in Saida, Lebanon. She has decided to pursue a degree in public affairs in order to be part of positive change and development in her community. She would like to be a public speaker, an event planner, or a manager who contributes to the well-being of her community. She also plans to launch a youth empowerment organization. Layal believes that the Hope Fund has allowed her to make her dreams come true and looks forward to fulfilling her goals at Columbia College.


Angham Jaradat


Angham Jaradat is a bright, personable, active, and well-rounded young woman who hopes one day to get an MBA after completing her undergraduate studies at Monmouth College. Angham is an alumna of three competitive U.S. Department of State programs: the English Access Microscholarship Program, the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, and the Abraham Lincoln Incentive Grants Program. An avid chess player and a member of the Palestinian National Chess Team, she won 1st place in her high school’s chess championship and participated in three international chess tournaments. She also played varsity sports and is keenly interested in science, winning 5th place at a nationwide science fair and competition for her project on water resources in the West Bank.





My name is Ahmed Zaqout, I’m seventeen years old from Gaza, Palestine. I’m a crazy fan of soccer and tennis, I also try to play every sport my circumstances allow me to. I spend most of my free time listening and playing music even though I can’t. I have grown up in Khan Younis city in the southern part of gaza strip, I have got my education back and forth from UNRWA schools and public schools. I have always hoped for a better future for my homeland, and upon that, I decided to study political science . Besides that, as any other teenager, I am seeking success and awareness. I believe that if I spend my time doing what I am supposed to do, I will end up enlightened by the education that would lead me to the success I’m craving.




My name is Ahmad Ibrahim. I am a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, born and raised in Nahr El-Bared camp. I am 16 years old and I just finished High school at Loyola Sacred Heart High school in Montana. I am planning to finish Mechanical engineering at Illinois college, and will be attending school there starting from this fall. I come from a poor background, and I know what life in camps is like which gave me the enthusiasm to finish my education and help those in need.The Hope Fund has made my education possible.



My name is Tala Anchassi, I am Palestinian, born and raised in Lebanon. I am passionate about the public health field and also wish to explore my interest in the arts. I plan to pursue International Health at Georgetown University and hope to have a career that allows me to promote health care in my country of residence. 



I’m Saifeddin Abdalrahman. I’m seventeen. I’m from Palestine. I’ve always hoped that I will have a chance to get a scholarship to study at a university. I’m most interested in applications of science and the right use of scientific discoveries, so an Engineering major would best fit me. At the same time, many subjects in other fields of study grab my attention, and fortunately, the American system would let me take courses in whatever I’m interested in. I believe at the University of Rochester I will be prepared to return to Palestine and apply what I will have learned to make useful applications, and improve the used equipment in various aspects of life .





Hello, my name is Haya. I live in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. I have been brought up in a  loving and supporting family. My dad works in PALTEL as a manager. My mom does not work, however she is seeking to get a masters degree in Public Health in order to get a job. I have two sisters and two brothers.

I am very grateful to everyone who supported me during my life and helped me to  become who I am today. I have been achieving high academic levels throughout my school years with a 3.96 GPA during my stay in the USA as an exchange student in the 11th grade of high school (on a very competitive scholarship that I won). I was awarded for “The Outstanding Student” in Honors English, Chemistry and Pre- Calculus.  I am also an active member in the voluntary work and projects that are held  by different organizations. I was accepted in Gettysburg College, Pennsylvania. I have  always wanted to major in Business Administration, but I am having second thoughts about changing that to International Affairs. My dream is not just to be a successful leader and a manager but also to be a creative person in my job and have an impact on this world.



My name is Mohammed from Deir Albalah Camp, Gaza strip, Palestine. We live in a refugee camp. With my dad’s modest income from his small aluminum workshop he has managed to raise us instilling good ethics and ambitions in where we are all supposed to give a helping hand.  Working at such a young age has led me to take responsibility and accept life’s challenges.  I got my admission for fall 2013 in an American Honors College called the International Horizons College in Dubai. And now after finishing my first years with a GPA of 3.82 I will be continuing my education at Bridgewater College in Virginia.

I have participated in many writing workshops and competitions hoping that my words would be heard.  I was chosen to represent Palestine in an international writing program.  I was also honored in the field of sports as the best goalkeeper in the entire camp. The Hope Fund has given me a lifetime chance. I want to be an ambassador for my people to tell how humane we are.



My name is Hashem.  I am from the Arroub refugee camp outside of Hebron in the West Bank.  Most of the social services in the camp are provided by or directly affiliated with UNRWA.  My family’s UNRWA card qualifies us for free medical and educational services, as well as basic food supplies at times.  My family has been suffering from a financial dilemma since 1996.  My father has been working alone to support our livelihood and education.  His salary is definitely not enough to cover our needs.  Although we used to get help from UNRWA, they shrank their services in the refugee camps throughout Palestine.

I view the next step of my educational evolution as expanding the depth of my experience through studies abroad at Earlham College, Indiana.  This will afford me, in these tumultuous times, the introspection necessary to implement real change when I return home.  Through my experiences, I learned that many leaders and successful people can start from economic poverty and become intellectually rich.



My name is Ammar and I am from Attil, Tulkarm. I have five siblings of which two of them attended a public two-year college. My father works at a clothing shop in Aqaba. I received a merit scholarship to King’s Academy, one of the most elite schools in Jordan and the region, for three years, and it surely directed me to the right path of seeking a successful future.

Now I study Mechanical Engineering at IHC in Dubai. My dream is to become an automotive engineer and open up my own automobile company in Jordan to support my family and give my sixty-two year old dad a break from working.

Hopefully if I make enough money in the near future, I will support unlucky students to pursue  their passion in life and not let their financial status bring them down. This is because I know exactly how it feels to have a potential and no luck, and how depressing it can be for unfortunate students not to have a chance in life.



My name is Ali. I am a Palestinian refugee living in Tyre in Southern Lebanon. I live with my brothers and sisters in addition to my parents in Borj Alshamali camp. It was  a great opportunity to be accepted for the Hope Fund scholarship that really changed my life for the better. Even though I was ranked in the top 5% of my school with many outstanding academic achievements, my opportunities in Lebanon are very  limited.  I am going to study in Illinois in the US this year. I will study applied  physics in Augustana College for four years.



I am taking this opportunity to introduce myself as a member of the Hope Fund warm family. I am Ghida, a Palestinian refugee who was born in Lebanon.  I was raised in a modest family with my five sisters. During my school years, I attained a high average accompanied with rigorous extracurricular activities.  I am very interested in writing especially stories that carry the voices of oppressed people. One of my stories is about women’s’ rights, and it was published by UNICEF.

In the summer of 2012, the Hope Fund believed in me and gave me the chance to apply for about ten colleges in the states.  Excitedly, I am a Smithie (student in Smith College) where I will study biology, pre-medicine. I hope to pursue medicine because it is simply what I am passionate about.



My name is Hussam. I live in the Ghoro Camp, but I was born in Saida. My father passed away more than 6 years ago. My family depends on my mom’s salary. She is responsible for raising me alongside my brother and sister. My brother Ahmad suffers from a mental disorder and brain damage, which makes it impossible for him to work.  He needs financial and sympathetic support.  My sister should be in university, but because of the increase in tuition and no available scholarships, she had to drop out this semester. She will return to school if it is financially possible. I will study at Augustana College, Illinois with a double major in math and physics. I was a volunteer in a NGO and have done several projects and fundraising to continue their mission. I have always worked hard to achieve good grades.  In the future, I hope to enter graduate school and work to help my family financially.



Salam, I’m Ibrahim from Beirut, Lebanon. My father is a juice vendor, and my mother is a housewife. My father is 74 years old, so I was taught from an early age how to take responsibility and work hard to succeed. I always seek to improve my situation, and hope to be somebody one day.  I never gave up and knew that I only need a chance to change my life. Studying mechanical engineering and math in the

United States at the University of Rochester is the chance I was looking for. It is a dream come true, and an opportunity to be taught not only how to be a good engineer, but also how to become a successful person. After I finish my undergraduate education, I hope to find a great job and pursue a PhD in mathematics.  In the future, I want to; solve the remaining six of the millennium problems; win a noble prize in mathematics; build a levitating board; build a sustainable community for Palestinian refugees everywhere; and buy a house for my parents.




My name is Fatima. I am from Maghazi Camp, Gaza Strip, Palestine I have 5 sisters. My father is a retired policeman and my mother is a housewife. I came to the United States last August for a year of high school. Being in the United States is amazing.  You have the chance to explore yourself and know more about life.When I came here, I learned how to be an independent young lady, how to fight for what I believe in, and know myself more. This year in the United States was the best year in my life. The greatest experience here was senior survival. It’s a tradition at Mount Ellis Academy for the seniors to go out in the forest and explore themselves. We went to the forest with our sponsors. I built my own tent, cooked my own food, hiked several mountains, and was a social person. They taught me self defense , and also where the strongest places in my body are. We spent a week and a half there. The last day, I noticed that we – the students and the sponsors- became one big family. We took care of each other and helped each other to survive. I will never forget this experience . This fall, I am going to Illinois College and plan to major in English Literature with a minor in Business Administration.  My first year was so amazing. I can’t wait to all that it has to offer