Volunteer Spotlight: DukeEngage

This summer, we were again lucky to host volunteers from the DukeEngage program in North Carolina. Ten enthusiastic, reliable and devoted volunteers joined our own local volunteers and together they implemented Bridge’s first component, the University Preparatory Course (UPC). UPC works with the top 150 Palestinian students enrolled in UNRWA secondary schools in Lebanon. These students, in the summer before 11th grade, engage in SAT prep and receive college and career guidance as part of UPC. We were pleased that some of the volunteers were of Middle Eastern roots. Hopefully, their volunteering experience helped them better understand their identities and more importantly, the untold stories of Middle Eastern aspiration and potential. On our behalf, we can assure that their counseling efforts left a memorable impact on the UPC students.

As a result of the long-term collaboration between ULYP and DukeEngage, a former UPC student, Nour Kanaan, will be joining Duke University this fall. We are incredibly thankful to the previous DukeEngagers, and specifically Jake McCarthy, who guided her during the application process. We are proud of this lasting partnership and look forward to collaborating with future cohorts!

Bridge Star: Noura

Noura is a participant in our Bridge Program and has recently passed her Foundation year at the University of Malta with flying colors. In her own words:

“For 18 years, I have been living in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon called “Ein AlHelweh”. This camp -with all its flaws- empowered me to see what is beyond the walls surrounding it and to break barriers between countries to finally settle in Europe as I have fortunately gotten a scholarship to study at the University of Malta. Honestly, I have always wanted to leave Lebanon since refugees’ future there is uncertain and depends on the political climate in the region with all its turmoil and danger; however, I always had in mind the idea of coming back and contributing for change. For that, I chose to study Social Work abroad since this field of studies gets you closer to marginalized groups and since I am [in] one of these groups, I may be able to offer more help.Europe has offered me diversity, openness, knowledge, and freedom. Personally, this benefited me because I met many nice, hardworking, knowledgeable, and open-minded people and academically, it gave me the power to explore and learn by myself. The hardships always pushed me forward, never backwards because I believe that education, especially for refugees, is the first and last resort in contributing to the prosperity of a country and one’s success.”

Noura has already made noticeable change. Director Stefania Agius Fabri of the International Office at the University of Malta stated, “Apart from her excellent academic record Noura has really distinguished herself for her participation, her insight, her thirst to learn and willingness to contribute. She has in fact engaged in a volunteering experience in Malta for part of the summer. We look forward to having Noura joining the Degree programme in October and am very thankful that we have been blessed with an excellent student who is truly deserving of this scholarship.”

Towards Tertiary Education and Beyond

Another component of the same fund, the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund is supporting undergraduate and specialized diplomas. More than 150 students are benefiting from this program and are pursuing their degrees and diplomas in five universities in Lebanon and abroad. Of these, six students concluded their oneyear programs and graduated: five with teaching diplomas and one from the Nutrition and Dietetics Coordinated Program. Our graduates are now equipped with new sets of skills that correlate directly with employability.

Farah not only graduated with a teaching diploma but also received the Award of Excellence in Practice Teaching during her practicum. Prior to receiving this opportunity to obtain a Teaching Diploma, Farah had graduated from university with a BS in Mathematics, yet could not secure a job. Through this fund, she is now able to pursue teaching positions and in fact is sought after in the job market.

Change Starts with Education

Our students are hard at work in the Change program developing their English skills and expanding their horizons through discussions on topics that range from modern art to life skills to respect. This summer has been lively, and we have seen great improvement and growth overall in both English performance and confidence – skills that will enable them to become positive change makers in their communities.

This summer, Change students engaged in a unit surrounding the book Who Moved My Cheese, a motivational short story about the consequences of not being able to adapt to life’s changes. Students used the book’s themes to reflect on their own life situations and how they can better adapt to changes occurring around them. As one student said during a class discussion, “Change is the only constant in life.” We are excited about how adept and eager our youth are and remain proud of their commitment to improving their own lives and thus, the lives of those around them.

Change is a component of the program ULYP is implementing in partnership with the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Refugee Education Fund targeting the secondary age students. Change will continue for one more year and graduate its 300 participants in August 2020.


Celebrating Education

 On July 25, ULYP held its fifth Celebration of Education for our Bridge graduates. ULYP class of 2019 broke the record with 32% of the 94 graduates completing degrees with distinction, high distinction or top of faculties.

With standing ovation, Ricardo Karam was this year’s keynote speaker whose words were inspirational to the students and audience at large: “Today, I want to talk to you about what time gives you in return: I want to talk to you about stories. Stories: the most precious things we carry with us – not just as individuals, but as communities, nations, and cultures…As I set out to tell my own story, I’ve realized that heroes and heroines didn’t always work under the spotlight. Many of them, in fact, work in silence. You are the heroes and heroines, you must tell your stories…The Arab world is thirsty for role models. We need people to make us believe that a brighter future awaits us. That we are still allowed to dream. As you build your own futures, you have the opportunity to build, along with them, the futures of every country.”

Two graduates then took the stage and addressed the audience of donors, board members and friends of ULYP with powerful and touching words:

“I believed in the mission that educating young women from the Middle East is the key to making it a better place to live. It was weird for people to accept that idea that a girl is traveling by herself to study abroad, and for what, trying to pursue a degree in the medical field and destroy her social life in the process… I wanted to change people’s perspective towards girls and women like me. Education has no limits! My gender or some oblivious social constraints should not be a cause for stopping me from fulfilling my dream.” Wardah Al Akrah, Manhattanville College BS Biology & BA Psychology (minor), Class of 2019

“I would like to congratulate my fellow graduates and friends on their success and ULYP on their continuous achievements… As a Palestinian girl, I was aware enough of the importance of education, and getting a degree was my purpose in life… the power of knowledge is the only way to survive and reach anywhere in this life, especially as a refugee… My motto in life is to never give up, believe in yourself, challenge yourself, and at the same time own your weaknesses as long as you are working on making weakness your strength. Finally, wherever the flow takes you, you will be fine as long as you have the will to reach.” Rama Al Hindi, LAU BBA Business Administration, Class of 2019

Thank you to our wonderful donors and to everyone who attended this ceremony. Without your contributions and support, this success could not be possible.


Towards Tertiary Education and Beyond


As announced in the last newsletter, ULYP and the Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair Fund for Refugee Education (AGFE) have joined forces to provide equal access to high quality education for young refugees across Lebanon. The scale of this program, and the opportunity it affords us to transform the educational journey of our beneficiaries, makes it a very exciting new intervention. This project will directly benefit over 500 students, over four years, and has three key outcomes. The first component is the Secondary Education Program, Change, providing 300 students from Beirut, Saida and Mount Lebanon with two years of English language and life skills lessons, followed by university entrance exam preparation and application support. Despite the cold weather, all the students have engaged in the activities and taken the first step of a journey towards successful school results and better preparation for tertiary education.

The second component is funding for 210 students pursuing undergraduate degrees or higher diplomas in fields that are market driven and lead to employment.

The third component is working with students to prepare them for employability and equip them with leadership, interviewing, resume development and other related skills. This will take place in year two of the project.

We are honored to have partnered with AGFE, a foundation that shares the same goals and values as we do, and we look forward to continue working together in the coming years providing access to education to an increasing number of students.

Making Changes


In September, CHANGE welcomed its students to our campus for the last time! This brilliant project was a perfect example of how our work supports the ambitions of young people living in Lebanon.

Since the beginning of 2018, CHANGE has been working with 75 Syrian and Palestinian refugees, from Syria and Lebanon, in Grade 12, to unlock their potential and increase their chances of pursuing higher education. Over the course of two semesters the CHANGE students engaged in intensive English courses and soft skills training. They were also offered college guidance counseling and assistance with their university applications. We are proud of the achievements of the CHANGE students and confident that they will leverage their newly developed skills for their success in the future.
CHANGE is in partnership with The Asfari Foundation.

Bridging the Gap

Bridge Graduation

This has been the busiest ever summer for the Bridge Program; we celebrated the graduation of 84 students, matched over 110 new students starting university with scholarships, and engaged 160 potential scholarship students in our University Preparation Course (UPC). We’re growing at a pace we couldn’t have ever imagined.

For the 6th year running, eight volunteers from Duke University participated in the DukeEngage Program in Lebanon. The volunteers provided additional SAT preparation to our UPC students.
SAT preparation is just one part of our students’ lengthy university application process. Over the next two years, these students will be given college guidance and counselling, before being matched with donors and funding for Universities in Lebanon and across the world.
A special thanks to Dr. Maha Al Houssami and Julia Daley from the DukeEngage Programs and the wonderful Duke students for their invaluable contribution to UPC 2018.

Over 110 students, the intake of 2018 – 2019, just crossed the bridge into their universities in Lebanon and abroad. This could not have been possible without the generous support of our donors, staff, and volunteers.
Applications for the Bridge Program will open in October 2018 and is open to all. Here’s to another year of students having access to higher education!

84 students graduated from the Bridge program this year. Our bright Bridge Program participants celebrated their graduation from university, bringing the number of Bridge alumni to 411.
The ceremony was magical, tearful, sentimental and inspiring. The president of Lebanese American University, Dr. Joseph Jabbra, delivered a moving keynote speech filled with words of encouragement and enlightenment.

Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education

alghurair foundation logo

We are excited to announce that ULYP has recently partnered with the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, for a three-year program starting September 1st. This partnership builds on our experience with the CHANGE and BRIDGE programs and makes it possible for ULYP to scale up these programs and reach out to a larger number of beneficiaries. The project has two main components. The first will support Palestinian and Syrian refugee youth with remedial English classes and prepare them for enrolment in Tertiary Education. The students will also engage in soft skills workshops, career counselling and support with applying for university. This component will be implemented in three areas around Lebanon and will build on lessons learned and best practices extracted from ULYP’s CHANGE program and our university preparatory courses.

The second component will provide scholarships and/or co-fund university education for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and certificates in Lebanon and the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus for 210 students. The project will also track our students and support them throughout their university studies.

Overall, this project is going to reach over 500 refugee youth in Lebanon and help transform their educational and economic opportunities.

Bridge Stars!

We are proud of our students, Mahmoud Al Housary and Nour Rmied, who attended their first White Coat Ceremony after completing the first year of Medicine at Yeditepe University!

Mahmoud and Nour received scholarships to study Medicine at Yeditepe in Istanbul.  They are pursuing their dreams after their unrelenting efforts in high school and commitment to education. Their hard work and success is definitely proof that anything is possible!