Update on our Scholars

The Andala Initiative is happy to introduce our 2017 Avicenna Scholars and announce their academic plans. Chosen from a highly selective pool of Muslim high school juniors from across the U.S.,  Mariamou Abdoulaye, Omar Alani, and Hoda Harraz will each begin their post-high school careers this fall.

Mariamou Abdoulaye

Born in the Central African Republic, Mariamou spent five years in a refugee camp with no formal schooling before arriving in the U.S. Despite the many challenges she encountered in her new life in the U.S., Mariamou excelled academically. She was recently selected to join the Rose Festival Court, a group comprised of up to 14 outstanding young women chosen from Portland Metro-area high schools. As part of the Rose Festival Court, Mariamou will receive a scholarship and will participate in a program this summer that offers networking and mentorship opportunities. In addition to her academic achievements, Mariamou volunteers at the local mosque, where she teaches and helps to maintain the facilities. She enjoys modeling, dancing, volunteering, and learning about her culture.

Mariamou Abdoulaye is from Portland, Oregon, and will study nursing at Portland Community College for two years and plans to transfer to Howard University to pursue a medical degree.

Omar Alani

Originally from Malden, Massachusetts, Omar has excelled academically and maintained a strong commitment to volunteering through his work at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC). He enjoyed playing soccer for his high school varsity team and being a swim instructor at the YMCA. His love for traveling the world is coupled with his interests in photography.

Omar will attend Brown University in the fall, where he plans to pursue a pre-medicine track and then attend medical school. Omar is considering a major in either biology, biochemistry, or computer science. He looks forward to spending his freshman year engaging in new student activities and exploring his interests, which include playing soccer, coaching young athletes, volunteering in his community, and spending time with his family.

Hoda Harraz

Hoda Harraz lives in Hercules, California. In addition to her academic achievements, Hoda has maintained a part time job and has been deeply engaged in community service. She tutors middle school students who require extra academic help in reading, math, and science during a weekly after-school program. In addition, Hoda led a poetry community group by organizing meetings, writing sessions, and rehearsals in order to prepare her team for poetry competitions.

Hoda will be attending the University of California, Berkeley in the fall where she plans to study architecture. Hoda enjoys art, poetry, and is excited to begin her studies.

We are honored to have these rising stars join the Andala community!

Announcing the 2017 Class of Avicenna Scholars

August 26st, 2017—Today, the Andala Initiative is happy to announce this year’s Avicenna Scholars. The 2017 class of scholars were chosen from a large pool of talented Muslim high school juniors from across the nation and were selected for their outstanding academic accomplishments, community service, leadership and commitment to ‘pay it forward’ and mentor future scholars. Through the Avicenna Scholars Program, they will receive mentorship as well as financial support, and help securing internship opportunities. 

The Avicenna Scholars Program was started with the hope of supporting high achieving but disadvantaged American Muslim students advance their education. We believe that education is the best investment a young person can make in their future, and our goal is not only to help our scholars to get into college, but to help them launch their careers. The 2017 scholars are the second class of the Avicenna Scholars Program and will join a two other amazing scholars, who will both matriculate to the University of Pennsylvania in the fall.

This year’s scholars are:

Mariamou Abdoulaye (Portland, OR) 

Arriving in the US as a refugee and as a young teenager, Mariamou navigated the challenges of a new country, new language and new schooling system, all while excelling academically. In addition to her scholastic achievements, she is active in her community through her work serving free food, maintaining the mosque and teaching.


Omar Alani (Malden, MA)

Ranked first in his class, Omar is not only an outstanding scholar, but is also dedicated to serving his community through extensive youth work with the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) as well as coaching young athletes.


Hoda Harraz (Hercules, CA)

Ranked first in her class, Hoda demonstrates independence and dedication to her studies even in the face of challenging circumstances. In addition to her academic achievements, Hoda gives back to her community by tutoring middle school students.


Congratulations to our scholars!

Why We Believe Friendship is the Foundation of Giving

In a cozy living room, we gathered to drink tea and catch up. Many of us had recently completed graduate, law, or medical school. We had known each other for years, and cherished the bonds that helped us through tough times in school and life. We had been to each other’s graduations, weddings, baby showers, and traveled together.

To an outsider we might have looked your standard set of young professionals, but that is not how we saw each other;  now, we know our accomplishments were the result of the cumulative sacrifice of our parents and communities, as well as our friends. We know that it “takes a village.”

It was the friendship and commitment to one another’s success that got us to where we are today – the late night phone calls before exams or interviews, warm introductions, application reviews, and timely personal coaching. “We are all in this together.” This mentality made us stronger. We saw our cumulative network grow through the networks of one another. At the end of the day, the Andala Network is simply about building and spreading lasting friendships, supporting one another, and giving back.

Our hope is that this simple concept can inspire others to do the same. We hope other groups of friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, gather in living rooms around the country can help each other, their communities, and the next generation.

Spotlight on one of our 2016 Avicenna Scholars

    Talia Saeid, one of Andala’s 2016 Avicenna Scholars, does not get home from school until at least 6:30 pm every day. When you spend as much time as Talia does at school and when you do not mind an hour commute to get there, you know you are destined for great things. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Talia is thankful for the diverse community surrounding her, both at her mosque and at her multicultural magnet high school – the Julia Reynolds Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School.

    Now a senior at Masterman High, Talia is deeply interested in science, specifically in physics and studies related to the universe and cosmology. As early as middle school, Talia remembers watching science documentaries about the universe and recalls the multitude of related issues she wanted to explore. She did just that when she recently researched and taught a class about nuclear fusion to her classmates – an example of her deep-rooted commitment to cutting edge science. It is no surprise that Talia is considering studying either engineering or astrophysics in college, with a minor in anthropology or philosophy. “I see this as a way to tie science together with my interest in the humanities,” said Talia.

    Talia’s involvement does not stop inside the classroom. As a member of Masterman High’s varsity basketball, varsity soccer, and track and field teams, Talia constantly challenges herself both mentally and physically. In addition, she co-founded an Islam Awareness Club at her school, which focuses on raising political awareness regarding timely issues facing the Muslim American community. Talia is a strong believer in having a support system and has always looked to her older siblings, and now to the Andala Initiative board members, as a source of mentorship. “Almost every time I think of a school I want to apply to or a research topic I am interested in, Andala has a related connection or expertise in that area. The mentorship I have through Andala is very strong because the members have been through the exact stage I am in now.” said Talia. “I look forward to one day becoming a mentor myself for future Avicenna Scholars.” Future leaders like Talia and this dynamic of an ongoing ‘pay it forward’ mentorship model is exactly the support system that Andala wants to maintain. We are very honored to have Talia be among the first Avicenna Scholarship recipients.

Why We Created the Scholarship Program

Education is one of the best investments an individual can make in her or himself. And while a talented and motivated student can succeed regardless of their economic circumstances, it is harder if they do not come from a well off or well-connected family. Sometimes much harder.

That's because education involves much more than being admitted to an excellent undergraduate institution. It requires succeeding while there and successfully navigating the job market or graduate school after college. At every step along the way, economically disadvantaged students are less likely to succeed than those from wealthy families because they don't benefit from the same support networks.

We founded the Avicenna Scholars Program to fight this trend, and support talented disadvantaged American Muslim students at every step in their education with advice, mentorship, and a small financial contribution. Our mentor network includes doctors, lawyers, scientists, and businesspeople who have attended some of the best educational institutions in the United States. They know what it takes to succeed while there, and upon entering the job market. At the Andala Initiative, we want to help our scholars successfully launch their careers, not just help them get into school.

We view this work as an investment in the American Muslim and broader American community. We hope that once a scholar graduates from the program, they are inspired to 'pay it forward' and help others as they have been helped. Our goal is to cultivate a cohort of young American Muslim leaders who are deeply committed to both their faith and their nation, one that grows in size and influence with every passing year.