TYO welcomes Clare and Karen to the Nablus Center. They come to TYO as recipients of the Princeton University ReachOut 1956-81 International Fellowship, an alumni-funded grant awarded to a graduating senior (or pair of seniors) pursuing an international service project. The ReachOut Fellowship enables graduates to leave a lasting impact on some of the world’s most marginalized communities. Over the course of the coming year, Clare and Karen will work on many projects, including the design and implementation of community needs assessments, a social media strategy, fundraising campaigns, and local and international outreach strategies. They will also teach classes to youth and mothers. A brief introduction from each follows
A government-sponsored trip to Egypt during high school first drew me to the Middle East. It was there that I heard Arab perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict for the first time. I left Egypt with a desire to learn Arabic, so that I could better understand these opinions from people themselves, as opposed to relying solely on the American media. At Princeton, I immersed myself in Near Eastern studies courses in politics and history, striving to better understand both sides of the conflict and the extent of the American involvement in it. Regional study-abroad experiences in Amman and Cairo supplemented these studies. I also explored my interest in education policy by taking classes on the achievement gap and race relations, while complementing these courses with teaching in a local prison.
TYO has given me an incredible opportunity to combine my interest in education with my desire to serve Palestinian refugees. I am already impressed by the sheer volume of its programming and the emphasis placed on monitoring and improving its programs to ensure that it continues to effectively meet community needs. I hope that this fellowship allows me to better understand the effects of the Occupation on Palestinians and to serve this community in a meaningful and lasting way. When I look at the beaming faces of the children as they rush into the TYO Center, I know that for now, this is exactly where I want to be.
A bit of hubris, combined with the conviction that current U.S.-Middle East relations were based on a set of serious misunderstandings, led me to Arabic 101 during my first semester of college. I quickly discovered how little I knew about the region, and I became more determined than ever to develop a nuanced understanding of its societies, politics, and people. The following year, I helped coordinate a conference that brought Arab and U.S. college students together to discuss relations between the United States and the Arab world. There, I learned that U.S. policies towards Israel and Palestinians were a very real source of anger and frustration in the Arab world. Moreover, as I studied the conflict itself, I began to appreciate the devastating impact that conflict and occupation have had on individuals and communities alike.
In the last three weeks, I have already witnessed the power of TYO, where friendships, field trips, and classroom activities allow individuals to learn about themselves and each other in profoundly new ways. I am honored and excited by the chance to be a part of this joyful and transformative community in the coming year.