New program sends Palestinian students to Ivy League schools

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Nora Marzouqa, 17, chose to attend Harvard University for its research opportunities in medicine. (photo: Taawon)

The initiative, called Bridge Palestine, is the first of its kind in the country, providing after-school classes designed to train high-potential students to compete for education abroad.

By Zena Tahhan | Al Jazeera | Mar 14, 2018


“We teach them how to write good essays, how to succeed in interviews, how to be good citizens, the basic skills of dialogue, how to be rationally and not emotionally driven, what types of questions they should ask, how to have an open mind and be open to diversity.”
— Tafeeda Jarbawi, director-general of Taawon


Nora Marzouqa, a 17-year-old Palestinian from Bethlehem, has wanted to study at Harvard University for as long as she can remember. But the aspiring doctor and skilled debater grew up believing her dream was out of reach.

“I’ve seen my family members try to study abroad but they couldn’t for financial reasons, and also because we have to do the Tawjihi [Palestinian matriculation exam] and most universities abroad don’t recognize these test scores,” she tells Al Jazeera.

“It just seemed impossible for me — I didn’t know what the process was or how to go about doing it.”

When she reached the tenth grade, aged 14, Nora heard about a new, national, three-year education program that promised high school students acceptance into top universities in the United States and the UK. The $2m project was launched by Taawon, the largest Palestinian non-profit organization committed to local development.

Out of 3,350 applicants to the program from across historic Palestine, Nora was one of 400 students to succeed. After completing Bridge Palestine, she received her acceptance letter from Harvard University, on her 17th birthday.

”It was a surreal feeling,” she says, adding that she won an 85 percent scholarship.

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