by Amanda Nagy
This article originally appeared in the Oberlin College Newsroom.
As a high school student in Cairo, Egypt, Osama Abdelrahman excelled academically and had an active social life, but at the same time he could see firsthand the ripple effects of political unrest over the last decade.
In Egypt, academic achievement is the sole factor considered for college admissions. Consequently, extracurricular activities do not exist in many high schools, and Abdelrahman’s school was no different. While looking for universities abroad, he discovered the benefits of being involved in extracurricular activities. That inspired him to seek out activities that would broaden his personal development.
“I was lucky enough to find an NGO (non-governmental organization) recruiting high school interns. Over a year later, after joining multiple organizations and gaining invaluable experience, I wanted to pay it forward and help more high school students join extracurricular activities and unleash their full potential just as I did,” says Abdelrahman, a 2022 recipient of the Davis Projects for Peace Award. He will use the award to further build and expand the reach of an organization he created, TEDxYouth@ABIS, which encourages high school students to step out of their comfort zones and engage in activities beyond their academics.
Projects for Peace was founded by Kathryn W. Davis, who celebrated her 100th birthday by supporting 100 Projects for Peace, designed “to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war.” The student leaders of each project will receive $10,000 in funds to pursue innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues. Most projects will be implemented between June and September this year.
Abdelrahman, a double-major in economics and computer science with a minor in politics, founded TEDxYouth@ABIS in 2018, when he was still in high school. It was his school’s first-ever student organization.
“When I started TEDxYouth@ABIS, I had no funds or support from my school. I only had a vision—a dream to help high school students in Egypt unleash their full potential,” he says. “And I could not have turned this vision into reality without my stellar team.”
Since its founding, TEDxYouth@ABIS has recruited more than 150 team members, 70 speakers and performers, and 30 sponsors. Recently, for the fourth year in a row, it was one of only two TEDx organizations invited to take part in Traverse 2022, the biggest high school summit in the Middle East.
“Our goal for this project is not for it to only happen this summer. Instead, we want to start an initiative that will transform how high school students in Egypt perceive and participate in extracurricular activities. To make this happen, we have a team on the ground in Egypt who has already started planning for the project and is ready to hit the ground running as soon as the summer starts.”
At Oberlin, Abdelrahman is one of the founders of Twine, a mobile app that uses Artificial Intelligence to personalize campus life to each student based on their interests. He is also a resident assistant in Barnard Hall and a member of the Muslim Students’ Association, and he served as a cochair of the Oberlin Entrepreneurship Club last year.