A new service for Palestinian-American students applying to college and graduate school

I am reminded of stories of families immigrating to New York in the early 1900s with empty pockets and big dreams. They would somehow have to learn the language, fend for themselves, and make enough of a living to support one another and their loved ones back home.

Work was arduous and far less rewarding than many of these new immigrants had ever imagined. But they pushed onward — out of necessity, mainly. Some opened businesses that would one day become popular chains. Some opened craft shops tailored to specific clientele. Some opened restaurants, infusing rich flavors from home into the melting pot that is New York City. But my favorite stories are about the ones who took a riskier route and invested in others — the schoolteachers, tutors, neighborhood educators. In a way, these new Americans had the clearest foresight. Despite the sheer elusiveness of the American Dream, they focused their energy on the next generation and sacrificed for themselves many of life’s simple pleasures all for the noble pursuit of building a community and molding an identity that would be in better hands tomorrow.

This story isn’t unique to New York City but the sacrifices many new Americans made in that city never fail to inspire me.

I am very privileged to have had access to an education system that invested in me and that took me seriously from the start. The Chicago Public Schools system worked for me. My undergraduate experience prepared me equally well. My time in graduate school equipped me with the tools I needed for medical school. And although medical school has so far been the most challenging thing I have ever embarked on, I am finally earning the chance to work one on one with ill, vulnerable, or otherwise disadvantaged patients. Is it worth it? Absolutely. My parents taught me to value education as the only currency that can never be taken from you. Aside from the blessing of seeing our parents proud, we get to represent our people, our country.

A resident pediatric surgeon once told me that we Palestinians inevitable carry larger ambitions than most. Simply succeeding is not good enough. Being at the top of one’s class might also not be enough. We must redefine the concept of innovation. We must continue to create, contribute, and share knowledge. We must tap into that deep reservoir of desire that keeps us fueled and motivated in the face of a decades-long occupation denying our ancestors the right to education. Yes, this is all common sense, the resident assured me, but the solution to our problems lies in the way we sacrifice for one another. Like the new Americans who chose to invest in the youth rather than in themselves, we too have a responsibility to look out for our own. There are people who want to follow your footsteps. What’s stopping you from lending a hand?

His words will forever ring true. This is why I am constantly on the hunt for ways to help others pursue their own scholarly dreams and ambitions. One day we might be colleagues in an operating room in Nablus’ Rafidia Hospital, or friends discussing plans to launch a war crimes investigation over Israeli military activity in Gaza, or partners with similar convictions lending our support to future generations of Palestinian innovators. It’s a beautiful thought.

For this reason, with the help and guidance of a few others, I am launching a new service through SMP. It is still in the planning phase and will be announced more formally and with greater detail in the near future. Nevertheless, it is catered to Palestinian-American students applying to college, graduate school, or some kind of professional school. A growing team of seasoned writers, essay editors, and graduate students will be available to review any and all application material, absolutely free of charge. The application process can be more daunting than the thought of an extra few years of school, so the goal of this service is to provide assistance to these students so that their applications accurately and compellingly reflect the best they have to offer.

This is not a campaign or a project as much as it is a service designed to invest in future generations the way others have invested in me. This is the very least that I and this team of readers/editors can do. Hopefully we can help to encourage Palestinian students to continue dreaming big. We, collectively, will see the payoff in the form of a liberated Palestine.

I will publish an official announcement once the team is built, trainings are complete, and all of the details are finalized. In the meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions, comment below or send an email to smpalestine@gmail.com. If you’re interested in contributing in some way, please send an email to smpalestine@gmail.com.

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