The cycle for the empowerment of young Syrians through higher education did not start with our 2-year-old initiative, it started years ago with NGOs like Jusoor, Karam, Dubarah, Basmeh&Zeitooneh, and many others who often collaborate with institutions, like Illinois Tech, Columbia University, Lebanese, Jordanian and Turkish universities, and others.
Thus our Syrian Youth Empowerment initiative started not out of need, nor out of excitement to make a difference, although there’s no shortage of either, it all started out of gratitude. Our collective feeling of gratitude for the opportunity we have been given as Syrian students at Illinois Tech after IIT’s collaboration with Jusoor to help 40-something Syrians 4 years ago to come to Chicago’s south side to continue their higher education. From the south side of Chicago, SYE started with the efforts of a network of Syrian alumni who wanted to share their experience with high school students in Syria. Our aim was to help them better understand their options when it comes to pursuing higher education outside Syria. Since we are all grads from the U.S. educational system, American universities where our field of expertise and focus, for the first phase at least.
Last year we started by putting up a form for an application on our Facebook page, and we received 380 applications out of which 19 were selected and 9 applicants got admissions to top U.S. institutions (Harvard, MIT, Brown, Columbia, NYIT, and others). These are 9 new students who got the opportunity to make something out of themselves in a safe environment. 9 students who will graduate in no time to join the efforts to bring opportunity to more Syrians in the light of the ongoing war that has put the future of hundreds of thousands of youth back home in danger.
This year we start another cycle, with 37 students chosen from a pool of 1,320 amazing applicants. It is our hope that our little initiative will continue to grow to help more students. This will happen with the support of more and more volunteers, the generous donations of friends to our online campaign, and the mentorship of professionals from our alma mater and beyond.
We might not be changing the course of the future of Syria with a small 20-person initiative, but we are definitely trying.
Illinois Institute of Technology Alumni
College of Arcahetictue
Stuart School of Business
Armour College of Engineering