Perspectives of LE.O founding members.

LE.O is privileged to count Fred Rogers as a board member, he and his wife Jenny Hartley, are also valued host parents.

An open Letter from Fred Rogers and Jenny Hartle

In preparation for an email promoting the Zoom conversation with Mahmoud Abdelfattah, I was reading the LE.O website today and I realized that it is missing something. LE.O is much more than the work it does: it is heart and soul: it is Deya’s heart and soul. It is also the heart and soul of the students and even the many who support both Deya’ and the students. It is a large extended ‘family’ or community, as is befitting in supporting students from the Arab (or rather Palestinian) world.

Students coming to the USA or elsewhere for college face many challenges of logistics and cultural adaptation. Students who endure severe poverty and oppression to succeed enough to enable them to be invited to enroll in foreign institutions often face a steep learning curve. Many have never been outside their home country or the circumstances of their refugee status. Struggling with language, high academic standards, student peers who don’t understand or acknowledge their underlying difference and motivations or even racist or discriminatory treatment by some, these students have overcome a lot. Moving to an overseas campus introduces a whole new set of peers and expectations. While many schools are eager to increase their diversity and thus recruit a few students from challenging backgrounds, few schools are well equipped and commit enough resources to fully support and enable such students to succeed.


Fred visiting the UNRWA school in Al-Beddawi camp in Tripoli, Lebanon


Fred and Jenny visiting American University of Beirut

LE.O’s role begins with identifying and supporting students through the application and admissions process and the decision to enroll. Following the decision to enroll begins the difficult and meaningful work of supporting those students, through the years of their education and acculturation until they successfully graduate and move on to the next stage of education or career. This is where LE.O excels well beyond similar organizations. Bringing each individual student into the LE.O family is the beginning of this process. Drawing them out about their concerns, anxieties, family issues, perspectives and experiences is the foundation. Working with them as they encounter difficulties and helping them to find additional resources and internal fortitude is ongoing and important to their success. Everything matters: from emergency dental care to winter clothes to downtime with host families where they can safely unwind and process their experiences, to summer internships that relate to their experience and aspirations. Sometimes it is just an ear to listen and empathize and help remind them of their own strength and resilience.

Home for many of our students


LE.O Community members gathering together, from The West Bank, Gaza and Palestine '48.

Home in a camp in Lebanon

The results are evident in the graduates who continue to be enthusiastic supporters of LE.O, even as they pursue their own post-graduate studies and careers and begin their own families. They are an invaluable resource and part of the larger LE.O community. They serve as mentors and advocates for the current and prospective students. Overcoming logistical and political challenges that would stop many, the LE.O students continue to be examples of motivated and talented young people striving to advance their own education and to join adult society in productive and powerful roles of service and empathy.

LE.O gives it students the support to flourish, not just survive and achieve.

Fred Rogers 
Jenny Hartley 
Northfield, MN 55057

To those of you who have generously supported us, we thank you most sincerely. For whether small or large, your gifts have had the impact to forever alter and improve the future path of many. For Palestine's younger generation.

To our board members who offer us invaluable leadership and guidance not to mention financial support. We are humbled.

To our followers, we hope that by sharing so many different aspects of our program with you through our Newsletters, you have come to understand our work and our value. And that you will join us and offer your financial support and share your good fortune with us, so that we may continue our work and transform lives. For more deserving young people.

To our LE.O Community, I admire your resolve and fortitude. As students you have shown your commitment to your educations, and managed to thrive during these unprecedented and challenging times. You inspire us all.

Education is indeed the most effective tool available for self empowerment, and all the possibilities thereafter. We are witness to this at LE.O.