Graduation 2021

It is with great pride that the LE.O Community introduce you to our 2021 graduates. Our successes would not have been made possible without the support of all of you—our donors, colleges and universities, host families, and our boards. Thank You!

The remainder of our student community will be spending the summer in internship and research opportunities, and hopefully our youngest ones will finally after more than a year, have the chance to go home to visit family.



I am Tareq from Nablus, Palestine. During my time at Eastern Illinois University, I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved in organizations on campus that initiated an impact in the community. I majored in Accounting with a minor in Finance, during my bachelor’s years of college.

I was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity and served as President and Vice President of Finance. As a result, I developed numerous leadership skills that helped me succeed by creating a vision, setting goals, and defining my purpose. Recently I was honored to receive the IFC President of the Year award.

Moreover, I participated in a business fraternity this helped me expand my network and meet professionals in the Accounting field.

This Fall I received a scholarship to attend graduate school and will be enrolled in the Master of Business Administration in Accounting program. The program’s aim is to assist students and to develop Accounting skills to meet educational requirements that will prepare me for the Certified Public Accounting exam (CPA). I am looking forward this summer to go home and see my family, in addition to start Graduate School in the Fall!



Hello, I am Donia from Tulkarm , Palestine.I am graduating from Macalester College. I double majored in Political Science and International Studies with a minor in Data Science with a concentration on Middle Eastern Studies.

I am on the board of a student organization for Palestinian rights, called MacSUPER and my activities were limited this year due to Covid, but in previous years I also participated in giving speeches during the international round table event at Macalester. Additionally, I was chosen to be on the Presidential Committee to increase diversity on campus. Finally, I created and taught a two-credit, semester-long class about the Palestinian resistance and served as a board member for the refugee committee, another student organization. This semester I joined the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch as a research intern. I am also in my second year interning at the Advocates for Human Rights in the refugee and immigration program. Other internships that I did were the United Nations Development program in Palestine and a legal internship at Sezzle inc. After graduation I will be doing an internship at the mission of the state of Palestine to the United Nations in New York.

During my education I returned home two summers with the help of LE.O to intern. I interned with the UNDP, Masarat (the Palestinian center for policy research), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Over the years LE.O has introduced me to numerous experts in my field of interest. Upon my arrival to the US a LE.O board member Ms. Hadeil visited me on campus to ensure I had warm clothing for the Minnesota winters and another donor took me shopping for college life needs. LE.O has been my sounding board all along as I navigated the complex issues of college life as an international student, and these were numerous! I could not have managed on my own, and in the future I look forward to joining the LE.O board so that I may support the younger generation of Palestinian students through our community.



I am Marya from Jenin, Palestine. As I am writing this, I am realizing my graduation is in less than a month away! My senior year has been very busy and I still can’t process my college journey will be over soon.

I will be graduating from St. Olaf college with a Biology major, a Neuroscience concentration, and pre-med track. Like all of my senior friends, I have been spending a lot of time looking for job opportunities, mainly in Minnesota. I am applying to Clinical Assistant positions in clinics and hospitals around the state.

I recently finished my EMT clinical rotations, and although everything seems uncertain, EMT was the experience that made me sure of where I want to work and what I want to do after graduation. It is all very exciting yet scary, a new chapter will begin with new people in a different environment. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned in the past four years, especially the tough ones because they are what I’ll take with me when I leave college.

Since the end is getting closer, the plan is to keep looking for jobs, spend time with the incredible people I met here, and finish up the last bits of my classes. After some time getting work experience I shall continue my education. For now I still don’t know what exactly will happen, but definitely can’t wait to see it.

The LE.O Community has been by my side throughout this journey, addressing challenges, offering soft skills guidance and supporting me with internship placements back home, this has been a vital part of my education. I am very lucky to have been a part of such a nurturing organization, and plan to pay it forward in my future.



Hello my name is Sawab, I am from Ramallah, Palestine. I received a scholarship to attend The College of Idaho, I will be graduating with a double major in International Political Economy and Business Administration with a finance concentration, and with a triple minor in Spanish, Pre-law and Natural Sciences.

I co-founded the Amnesty international club on campus, am a member of the association of Latin American students, a member of the International Student organization, and the Yote Traditional Council and Finance club, I am also a Clinton initiative scholar. In college I worked as a mentor in the inclusion department and as a Student Ambassador. I was a member of The College of Idaho CFA team, our team was the CFA challenge Idaho winners. I received the High Impact Practices scholarship, the History Travel Fund scholarship and the Business Advisory Council scholarship.

After graduation I am planning to return home to Palestine and work in the Jerusalem- Ramallah area, either in the banking-financial sector or in development programs with non-profit or non-governmental organizations. In the coming years I plan to go continue my education and go on to graduate school in Europe or Australia where I would like to pursue a Master’s in Development or Financial Policies or International Economics. My future goals also include traveling to Latin America to strengthen my Spanish language skills and find employment in developmental programs.

I joined the LE.O Community because I found being so far from home had many challenges, they were my safety net and my family away from home, always available to help me navigate and think through my next steps. Getting to know host parents and the other students has been an invaluable part of my education. I look forward to a life long relationship with my LE.O Community.



I am Dia from Saida, Lebanon. Six years ago, I chose to study medicine for many reasons, yet the most important one was because part of being a good person is about helping others.

I was fortunate to study under a full-scholarship program at the Yeditepe University of Istanbul, one of the top universities in the region. During the last six years, I have learned how to listen to patients before treating them. Also, I volunteered in different hospitals that enriched my knowledge and helped me build strong interpersonal skills. My current work as an internship doctor in university hospitals in Turkey is focused on encountering various cases. By Summer 2021, I will have been graduated and officially become a Medical Doctor.

The diversity in Turkey helped me establish a unique experience in many domains, especially medically and socially. To achieve a deeper indulgence in the medical field, I am willing to pursue my specialization in the United States. Moreover, being a part of research or an observer-ship program, this Summer in the USA is my ultimate plan towards residency and I just received an opportunity to observe at one of the top hospitals! Undoubtedly, the LE.O community’s ongoing support was the power of change and motivation I needed throughout my journey.



Samer is from Jenin, Palestine, and is a member of LE.O's Board of Advisors. He will be receiving his Doctoral degree from the George Washington University this summer and will join the University of College London (UCL) in the fall as an Assistant Professor of Political Science.

Born and raised on the West Bank of Palestine, Samer arrived in the United States on an undergraduate scholarship in 2008 and went on to complete a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs from the University of Chicago. While completing his PhD and teaching courses on Middle East Politics at GW, Samer served as a co-leader of LEO's Mentorship Program, preparing and guiding our applicants through the admissions process to U.S. colleges and universities.

He is a founding member of LE.O, having learned first-hand through the challenges he personally faced studying so far from home, he understood that our organization needed to take a holistic approach to be able to effectively support our youth during their educational journey. He was instrumental in establishing our standard operating procedures (SOP’s) which have ultimately resulted in the success stories that you read about the LE.O Community.



This July, Shorouk (Bethlehem, Palestine) will be graduating with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, where she has been actively focused on developing new synthetic tools using photoredox catalysis. She is the recipient of the Department of Chemistry’s Exceptional TA award and the Excellence in Graduate Chemistry Research award.

Shorouk is looking forward to starting her career as a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry and just recently accepted a job offer starting this summer with one of the leading companies in the industry.

With the guidance of LE.O, Shorouk secured funding for her graduate school applications from the Canadian Palestinian Professional Foundation (CPPF). Shorouk is grateful to have Deya’ as a great mentor and role model throughout her educational journey. She now looks forward to mentoring LE.O’s younger community members who are interested in pursuing studies in the STEM fields. She also plans to start contributing to funding other students at LE.O once she is employed.

When you read about us you may note that we choose to intentionally omit in-depth details of our personal stories, as well as the hardships and challenges we face, we choose dignity over pity. However by now we know you understand that we are a resilient Community and hope that you continue to focus on our achievements and where we are going, but all the while never forgetting where we’ve been and where we come from. For it is our focus on self-empowerment through education and the possibilities that lie ahead, that has led us to success.

I would like to close by mentioning that we are dedicating this Newsletter in the honor of Aqel Biltaji, a beloved student of Dr. Graham Leonard. We wish to honor Mr. Biltaji as he has set a fine example of a Palestinian life well lived, and we honor him on our Memorial page so that all of us may be continually inspired through learning about his life and tremendous achievements, both personal and professional.