Growing up in a refugee camp in the West Bank, Nada Rehan faced limited opportunities for higher education. The bright young Palestinian woman had excelled in her studies and stood out for her energetic leadership in youth community service activities. But “there was no way for me to go to college ... because my parents cannot afford it,” says Nada. Today, though, the high school senior is thrilled to have received an “amazing” scholarship from Mt. Holyoke College, making her college dreams come true.
Nada is one of several impressive young Arab women and men who have received full scholarships for undergraduate study in the United States. Like Nada, they come from families lacking the means to afford a top quality higher education. Personalized coaching and other scholarship application services and assistance undertaken on their behalf by AMIDEAST’s Diana Kamal Scholarship Search Fund (DKSSF) enabled these students to stand out from the tens of thousands of other college applicants this year and qualify for life-changing scholarships that will cover the full costs of four years of undergraduate study in a U.S. institution.
The DKSSF scholars — three women and three men — include two other West Bank youth, Natasha Emya and Qais Iwaidat, who will attend Mt. Holyoke College and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively; Mohammad AlHammami from Gaza, who will study at Franklin and Marshall College; Hanane Lahnaoui from Morocco, who will attend St. Lawrence University; and Antoine Azar from Lebanon, who will attend Loyola Marymount University.
AMIDEAST established the DKSSF in 2006 in order to assist talented Arab youth who lack the resources to pursue an education that will realize their potential. The project, now in its fifth year, arose from a desire to do more for the many youth in this category who come to the attention of instructors and educational advisers at AMIDEAST’s network of field offices in the region. The DKSSF enables AMIDEAST to identify strong prospects and apply on their behalf to colleges and universities in the United States.
In the five years of conducting DKSSF scholarship searches, students from several countries across the region have received scholarships from Barnard, Carthage, Grinnell, Haverford, Williams, and Wilson Colleges, MIT, and American University, among others. Each participant is convinced that the opportunities provided to them have done nothing short of change the direction of their lives and help them find a path to realizing their goals. Equally important, the DKSSF scholars are bringing their unique experiences and insights to these institutions, enriching academic dialogue and contributing to campus cultural, social, and civic life.
MEET THE 2011 DKKSF SCHOLARS:
Nada Rehan, who is from the West Bank and will be attending Mount Holyoke College, plans to study International Relations as part of her goal to build bridges of understanding between Palestinians and Americans. She is looking forward to meeting people from different countries, religions, and cultures and gaining a better understanding of their diverse perspectives. ”My dream is to help my country live in peace and to draw a smile on the kids faces in my refugee camp. I believe I can add a lot to my community and help make it a much better place.”
Qais Iwaidat, who is from the West Bank and will attend the University of Pennsylvania, plans to pursue his interests in international relations and hopes to someday to start his own business. An avid reader, Qais is passionate about history and social science. He is excited about living and studying in a diverse society like the United States and envisions using the knowledge he gains to give back to his society some day. “Studying in the U.S. is like a dream coming true, but I believe it’s just the first step in the world of opportunities where hard work is the only way to succeed.”
Natasha Emya from the West Bank will attend Mount Holyoke College, where she plans to study international affairs in order to help youth in her country. In addition to her love of reading and writing, Natasha’s interests include debating. During high school, she served as a student mediator, belonged to the debate team and an environment club, and performed many hours of community service. “This scholarship means the world to me; it is going to help me achieve my goals to be part of programs and organizations that help raise awareness about political issues in my country. It’s something I always dreamt of doing.”
Mohammed AlHammami, from Gaza, will be attending Franklin and Marshall, where he is thinking of majoring in English Literature and minoring in Sociology or International Studies. The son of a teacher, Mohammed plans to return to Palestine to help improve education there because he believes that education is the backbone of development and will be important as Palestine rebuilds after many years of destruction. “My scholarship will open many opportunities for acquiring skills and knowledge that are essential for my future ambitions, but are not available in our local colleges. I am very excited to start my journey, for I know that it is going to be a life-changing experience.”
Hanane Lahnaoui from Morocco will attend St. Lawrence University, drawn to the upstate New York campus by its special International Economics-Multilanguage major that combines study of foreign languages with international economics. During high school she found time for community service and participated in exchange programs in the United States and Spain. Hanane’s goals include earning an MBA and conducting research. “To me studying in the U.S means the opportunity to have a very good education since U.S colleges are well known for their quality of education, to choose from a variety of majors, minors, and special programs, to grow ready for a profession, to do internships in my field of study in order to gain experiences, and to improve my skills.”
Antoine Azar from Lebanon will attend Loyola Marymount University, where he plans to major in Biology. Tony, who hopes to eventually go to medical school and become a doctor, excelled academically and was active in community service programs during high school. “I am so thankful for the DKSSF program for opening the door of opportunity for me to study in the United States. This scholarship will help me to achieve my future vision: returning to Lebanon and improving medical care for the many people who need it.”