Growing up in a Palestinian refugee family in Lebanon, Ibrahim Mohammad endured significant hardships. The oldest of three children, he worked throughout his young life to help support his family, often missing school. “I never thought I’d make it past middle school,” he recalls, but he also never gave up on his dream to study in the United States.
Today, thanks to his determination and the Hope Fund, Ibrahim is a junior at the University of Rochester, pursuing a double major in mechanical engineering and honors math and minors in economics and anthropology on a full scholarship. He is thriving in the university’s rich academic environment while valuing the diversity he has found on the Rochester campus.
“I have met people from different countries, with different opinions, ideologies, and hopes and dreams in life. This has added much to my personality and the way I view things in life. I also love learning here. Having so many opportunities and resources to do things beyond the scope of your major or the classes you take is amazing,” he observes.
Ibrahim should know. Last summer, as a Xerox fellow, he conducted research that aims to understand the fluid interaction with the hair cells inside the inner ear at different frequencies. He hopes to publish it.
He has also been active in the University of Rochester chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), joining as a freshman, he notes, because “it has given me the opportunity to do what I want to do in the future before I even graduate: help communities by applying engineering knowledge.”
While serving in several leadership positions and currently as the chapter’s president, Ibrahim has helped the chapter undertake a project to improve sanitation and access to safe drinking water for 400 rural public school students in the Dominican Republic. He travelled with a team to visit the school where they plan to design and construct a water filtration, distribution, and storage system. Recently, he also led the Sigma Chi fraternity’s annual service trip to the Dominican Republic to construct latrines for a “community under tough circumstances there.”
As if this wasn’t enough, Ibrahim joined with a fellow University of Rochester classmate last summer to establish a rehabilitation center in Lebanon to provide prosthet¬ics for Syrian refugee amputees. He was motivated by his experience as a Palestinian refugee, saying in an interview, “It meant a lot if someone else came to help us, but no one else came.”
After completing a master’s degree in engineering with a focus on energy, Ibrahim envisions returning home to design and build renewable, sustainable systems that would supply the refugee camps in Lebanon with electricity and pure water. Longer term, he continues, “I want to do that all around the world. I know that my destiny in life is to travel to less privileged communities like the one I came from and help them with what I’ve learned about engineering. I want to give people hope, a hope I almost lost.”
“The Hope Fund,” he adds, “gave someone like me an opportunity to make something out of himself. It provided me with the means to go to college. It made me the person who I am right now; it shaped my personality and point of view with experience that I wouldn’t have gained anywhere else.”