National Arab American Heritage Month - Celebrating the Power of Education
By Sara Tawfik / Arab America Contributing Writer
The celebration for National Arab American Heritage Month begins this Sunday, April 11th, 2021. Join us as we discuss the significant role of education in enhancing knowledge about the Arab American identity and heritage. Panelists will recommend ways in which the community and educators can work together to impact students’ understanding of the Arab American community and the Arab World. Learn more about our lineup of trailblazers in the field of education in this article.
Meet the Moderator
Dr. Debbie Almontaser is an internationally recognized, award-winning educator, entrepreneur, speaker, authority on cross-cultural understanding and author of, Leading While Muslim: The Experiences of American Muslim Principals After 9/11. She is an influential community leader and the Founder and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group Inc. Dr. Almontaser was the founding and former principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn, NY. She is Senior Advisor to Engage NY Metro, and is also an advisor at the NYC Department of Education School Diversity Advisory Group. Currently, she is the Board President of the Muslim Community Network and sits on the boards of the Yemeni American Merchants Association, Therapy and Learning Center Preschool, and 21in21.
Meet the Panelists
Dr. Suzie Abajian is an elected member of the South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education. Dr. Abajian was born in Aleppo, Syria, and immigrated to the United States in 1988 with her family. After graduating from Occidental College with a B.A. in Mathematics and an M.A. in Mathematics Education, she pursued her Ph.D. in education at UCLA. Dr. Abajian has been an educator for over 23 years working as a district administrator, K-12 teacher, educational researcher, and adjunct professor at UCLA, LMU, and Occidental College. She has also served on the boards of local nonprofits, the California School Board Association Delegate Assembly, and on the Los Angeles County Democratic Party Central Committee. In 2018 she was named Congressional Woman of the Year for the City of South Pasadena by Congresswoman Judy Chu.
Mohamed Abdel-Kader is Executive Director of the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute. He previously served in the administration of President Barack Obama as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education. Before joining the US Department of Education, Mohamed served in various roles at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and at George Mason University where he led various international strategy efforts. He has advised clients on organizational strategy, doing business in emerging Markets. He is a Truman National Security Fellow, an Eisenhower Fellow and is the author of a children’s book about stereotypes. Mohamed is a trustee of the Longview Foundation for International Education & World Affairs.
Lori-Kamleh Ajlouny is a proud graduate of Wayne State University from where she holds a BA, MAT plus 30 additional hours of professional ed. She has spent her teaching career in Birmingham Public Schools where she taught for 31 years. She has served a department head and interim administrator. She was part of a team that created a District Diversity Committee that implemented awareness of diversity within our community and without. She is also a member of the Oakland County Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Lori currently sits on the Birmingham Board of Education as the Vice President for her second term having been re-elected this past November. Lori has built strong relationships with BPS staff, administration, and community members. She has dedicated herself to service and excellence in whatever position she serves.
Adel Mozip is a senior software developer for Beaumont Health and a managing director of SpanHead LLC. Mozip has served as a school board trustee for the Dearborn Public Schools and Henry Ford College since April 2019. He previously served as software developer for Urban Science and as a creative designer for the Yemeni American News. Mozip earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan- Dearborn and MBA from Wayne State University.
Karim Nagi performs and teaches Arab music and dance in schools, universities and festivals around the United States, and tours internationally. A native Egyptian immigrant to the USA, Nagi uses his expertise as a percussionist and folklore dancer to expose audiences to the arts and culture of the Arab world. He has presented on 5 continents, performed in over 400 schools, recorded 16 albums, conducted 17 Arab Dance Seminars, and written a play. He is currently the first Arab board member of Chamber Music America. His TEDx Talk “The Tambourine, My Partner in Diplomacy & Disruption” can be watched on the official TED website.
Abrar Omeish currently serves as a School Board Member At-Large in Fairfax County right outside of Washington, DC. She is the first Libyan ever elected in US history and the first Muslim and youngest ever elected in her role, earning over 161,000 votes. Abrar co-founded an organization providing thousands of underprivileged youth with free tutoring and mentorship in 20 locations over the past ten years. After serving in several appointed capacities locally and working as a senior organizer at the DNC, Abrar served as a legal fellow at a human rights and immigration law firm in Northern Virginia and has been a spokeswoman for the #NoMuslimBanEver campaign. Abrar was most recently a Virginia. Co-Chair for the Bernie Sanders campaign and a Virginia PLEO and Rules Committee member to the Democratic National Convention. She holds a double bachelors with honors from Yale University and is a current dual MPP/JD student and Blume fellow at Georgetown.
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