IEW Education Celebration, AMIDEAST

Dorothy C. Shea, Deputy Principal Officer

Good morning.  It is a pleasure to be here with you today and to see so many members of Palestinian educational institutions in the audience.

صباح الخير. يسعدني ان اكون معكم هنا اليوم لرؤية العديد من الموئسسات التعليمية من بين الجمهور.

I would particularly like to thank Dr. Jehad Draidi, Deputy Minister of Education and Higher Education for International Affairs, for the ministry’s support of this event.

 أن أوجه شكرخاص للسيد جهاد دريدي, مساعد وزيرالتربية للشؤون الخارجيه لوجوده معنا دوأ اليوم و لدعم الوزاره لهذه الفعالية.

I would also like to thank Dr. Sami Mesleh, Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, for his strong support of our American Corner there, which has given us this opportunity to connect by Digital Video Conference.  I should add that he is a Fulbright alumnus, our flagship educational exchange program.

وأود أيضا أن أشكر الدكتور سامي مصلح نائب الرئيس للشؤون الأكاديمية في جامعة الأزهر في غزة لدعمه الكبير للزاوية الأمريكية هناك، حيث وفرت لنا الفرصة للاتصال عن طريق الفيديو كونفرنس. وأريد أن أضيف أن الدكتور مصلح هو خريج فولبرايت، البرنامج التعليمي التبادلي الرائد لدينا

Finally, thank you to AMIDEAST and EducationUSA for hosting this year’s International Education Week.

و أشكر أيضا الأ مد ايست و EducationUSA على استضافتكم للأسبوع الدولي للتعليم لهاذا العام.

This year marks the 15th celebration of International Education Week, and over the course of those 15 years, over 100 countries have joined us in celebrating the importance of education and the importance of learning, learning about each other and learning that we are all human beings.

It is especially nice this year to be able to celebrate a large increase, nearly 35%, in the number of Palestinians studying in the United States during the 2013-2014 academic year.  It means there were that many more chances for better understanding, appreciation and friendship between our people.

This year, we promoted our celebration of this week through a contest on social media. We asked Palestinians studying English through the Access Microscholarship program and alumni who went to high school in the U.S. through our YES or other programs to share with us their experiences through videos, pictures, poems, and essays.

I was struck by the quality and number of entries, and I believe a collection of the best will be shown before each of our many academic exchange and advising presentations this week.

What I enjoyed most was watching how rich and unique each individual’s experiences were, in the most unexpected ways. For example, one YES alumnus, Khaled Awashreh showed pictures of his first boat ride and fishing trip.  He also highlighted the times he got to share experiences with people of other nationalities studying in the U.S. from countries he may never get to visit.

The U.S. is a strong believer in the value of international education.  As Secretary of State Kerry said, “International education creates lifelong friendships between students and strengthens the bonds between nations.”

At the American Consulate General, we support opportunities for international educational exchange.  We have several programs such as the Fulbright program, Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (or YES) program, and Hubert Humphrey program that allow high school students, undergraduate and graduate students, and academic professionals to study, teach, and conduct research in the United States. Our USAID mission works with local governments and schools to help improve education in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza.

This summer, understanding the enormous challenges our academic exchange program participants from Gaza were facing in getting to their host academic institutions, we redoubled our efforts to help, and succeeded in sending 17 Gazans to the U.S. for a broad range of programs, including our Fulbright and Lincoln scholarships.

So part of the objective of today’s event is to share information about these many opportunities available to all Palestinians.

The other part is to highlight how significant these opportunities have been both for the Palestinians and the Americans who have participated in them.

For example, Palestinian Shorouq Badir is a third-year student at Bryn Mawr College in the state of Pennsylvania.  She participated in several of our education and exchange programs, including the Access Microscholarship Program, the YES Program, and the Abraham Lincoln Incentive Grants Program. She is also a NeXXt Scholar, a State Department program that helps international students in the U.S. to get career support.  Last summer, Shorouq interned with the New Story Leadership Program, which brings 5 Israelis and 5 Palestinians together for a summer in DC to work on projects for change, and she was selected to work with Congressman Polis from Colorado. She got an opportunity to do things that many Americans don’t, like attending hearings in Congress, and giving tours of our Capital.

And one of the Access English teachers Adam Steeler, who came here through AMIDEAST, is an American with no connection to Palestinians except for a desire to teach English here, somewhere new for him.  At our Halloween party in Ramallah, he told us that he’s already learned so many new things from people here, like Debka Folkloric Dance and how difficult life can be here sometimes and how people still manage to cope with these difficulties and smile.

At the same time we are promoting the benefits of a stronger, fuller education, we are also promoting bonds of friendship and cultural awareness that last lifetimes.

As I said at the beginning, the U.S. is welcoming more and more Palestinians to study in our high schools and universities.   This past academic year, there were 429, a 35% increase from last year, while the total number of international students studying in the U.S. only increased 8.1%.

There was also a big increase in the number of Americans studying at Palestinian institutions, from 14 to 35, and while the number is modest, it represents more than a 150% increase.

We hope to build on this momentum and to keep Palestinians coming to the U.S. and Americans coming here.

We recognize that not everyone has the ability or resources to be able to study internationally.  To assist in solving this problem, the Consulate General continues to work to find ways to create and deepen ties between academic institutions in the United States and their Palestinian counterparts.

Today, we have experts in all types of educational opportunities with us who can help you identify other funding and scholarships for study in the United States – whether physically in the U.S. or through distance learning.  I hope you, and your colleagues, and your students will take the time to visit the informational booths during the open day here at AMIDEAST, and in Gaza.

It is a pleasure to be here with you today, and I hope the rest of the week’s outreach activities in Gaza, Nablus, Jericho, Jerusalem, and Tulkarem will be as well attended as today’s event, and that Palestinians, interested in educational and other exchange programs in the U.S. will receive all the information they are seeking to make their dreams real.

Thank you all very much.