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The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Arab America Foundation’s Rising Leaders Initiatives

posted on: Jul 27, 2022

Collage photo of Arab America Foundation’s “20 Under 20,” “30 Under 30,” and “40 Under 40” initiatives. Photo: Arab America Foundation

By: Claire Boyle / Arab America Contributing Writer


Every year since 2020, the Arab America Foundation has accepted applications for its Rising Leaders initiatives of 20 Under 20, 30 Under 30, and 40 Under 40, which are aimed at “promoting young students and professionals of individuals in all fields through the following criteria of academic achievement, community service, extracurricular activities, and involvement in the Arab American community.” These contests celebrate the best and brightest of Arab American rising leaders and those who are uplifting the communities they live and work in.

The application for the three Arab America Foundation initiatives is entirely self-driven by the applicants themselves, and with that, the process may seem daunting to some. To clarify what applicants should and should not do when applying to any of these initiatives, we sat down for interviews with two amazing women who are tireless advocates within the Arab American community. They also know the ins and outs of the application process for the 20 Under 20, 30 Under 30, and 40 Under 40 competitions hosted by the Arab America Foundation. For this article, I spoke with Dr. Amal David, Co-Founder of the Arab America Foundation, and Nabeleh Ghareeb, one of the coordinators of the Rising Leaders initiatives with the Arab America Foundation.

What do Candidates Need to Know When Completing Applications for the Initiatives?

**Please note: following the proceeding information does not guarantee success, but it provides some information about how to compile a strong application.

The official logo of the Arab America Foundation. Photo: Arab America Foundation

This article provides a guide for the do’s and don’ts that applicants should follow when applying for Arab America Foundation’s three initiatives, and it provides information about how to make a strong application. In addition, many of these suggested items are common-sense measures that may seem small, but they are quite beneficial to the applicant.

1. DO Make sure to complete the entire application:

A photo of a person completing an application. Photo: Indeed

The first rule of thumb that is integral in having a strong application is to complete the entire application. This might seem obvious, but when I spoke with Nabeleh Ghareeb, she mentioned that measure is incredibly important. When completing the application form, she explained, “don’t write ‘see attached resume/CV,’ and the reason why this is so important is that the judges are not given any of the attachments, which is inclusive of a photo and a resume/CV.” The judges are only provided with the spreadsheet. Most people who complete the application and provide detailed accounts are usually successful. Dr. Amal David concurs with this opinion as she also mentioned, “rely on the application, not the resume.” In essence, think of it as a job application that must be completed in full without any reference to your resume or CV.

2. DO Make sure to complete all the attachments:

An image of attachments. Photo: Common English Errors

The judges are not given the attachments; however, if you win, it makes it easier for the committee to compile your background for the article if the photo and resume/CV are already attached. Along the same vein, Dr. David also described the importance of thoroughly reading the questions, which she said to, “fully read the questions.”

3. DO Provide your social media handles:

Social media apps on a cell phone. Photo: Wikipedia

Nabeleh mentioned that the applicants’ social media handles are important, especially since if they are selected as winners, Arab America will feature them on our official social media pages and may tag you if you have any platforms. In addition, she described how social media handles are integral because the potential winner’s company, school, or family may also celebrate their achievements online.

4. DO Pay attention to the initiatives’ four integral tenets of the contest:

Be sure to pay attention to the four core criteria sections listed below. These are the most important items in the application! Photo: NIH/SBIR

To have the opportunity to become successful in the contest, DO provide detailed information when discussing your “academic/professional achievements, community service, talent/extracurricular activities, and involvement in the Arab American community.” This piece is integral to your application, and Ghareeb said, “this is because the judges are not provided any identifying information, including the applicant’s country of origin.” This portion of the application is entirely based on the detailed descriptions each applicant writes down from their various credentials relating to the four tenets listed above. The judges are only provided with a number with an assigned number for the candidate and their credentials.

Each of the four categories is important, and be sure to present your credentials and achievements truthfully and honestly in which the details are fully explained. Dr. David also agrees with this assessment as she told us, “besides having reached a great achievement whether that be, academic or professional work, make sure to have done service for the community, especially with Arab Americans.” The other important thing to consider is that even “if you were not selected, that might be because others have expressed their achievements in a clearer and impacting way.”

Each category of Academic/Professional Achievement, Civic Service, Extracurricular Activities, and Involvement in the Arab American community is 10 points. The judges assign points to each category based on the credentials and backgrounds (not including country of origin) provided within the application, so candidates should be very detailed, clear, and provide as much information in these sections.

5. What should applicants do if they have lacked the opportunity or have weakness in one or more of the four core tenets of the initiatives?

A sign showing where a person’s next opportunity might be. Photo: Moody on the Market

We posed this question to Ghareeb to get her thoughts about what applicants should do if they have not gotten the chance to engage with any of these core tenets due to their life situations, as well as what should one do if they have weakness in one or more of the areas. She gave us amazing advice, and her take was that if applicants either lacked opportunity or experience in any of the areas, they should “discuss their strengths in the other areas and that individuals should put emphasis on things they care the most about.”

6. DON’T Submit your application after the deadline passes:

Respecting the deadline is super important to any of the Rising Leaders initiatives. Photo: Wrike

One of the most important rules an applicant must follow is never to submit your application late. Whatever you do, do not contact the initiatives’ coordinators the night before, saying you will get the application in after midnight. The general rule of thumb is to respect the deadline. Do not submit it an hour after, the day after, or the week after; the deadline is hard-and-fast, and as a young professional, it is important and respectful to be on time, and this application is no different. For instance, if you are applying for this year’s 40 Under 40 contest, the deadline is midnight on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, and nothing else.

7. DON’T Apply if you are not within the age requirements or are not of Arab American descent:

Students and young professionals of Arab American descent. Photo: Arab America

The Rising Leaders initiatives have two basic qualifications, and you should not apply for the contests if you do not meet them. Make sure to be within the correct age range, the age question will usually tell you what the cutoff date is for each contest. In addition, you should not apply if you are not of Arab American descent. The entire purpose of these initiatives is to celebrate young Arab Americans under the ages of 20, 30, and 40, so if you do not meet those basic requirements, you should not apply.

8. DON’T Select your country of origin as the United States:

Make sure to select one of the twenty-two Arab League nations as you or your family’s country of origin. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A common mistake that applicants often make is selecting the United States as their country of origin. Even if you are originally from the United States, we want to know your family’s country of origin. As we mentioned, the judges do not have access to the applicant’s country of origin. Still, when announcing the winners, Arab America Foundation likes to highlight the nation their Arab American heritage is from, so putting the United States down is not helpful to those compiling the announcement. Remember: when asked for your country of origin and if you are from the United States, write down which Arab nation your family traces their heritage to.

9. DO Support your fellow awardees:

An image showing the three initiatives together. Photo: Arab America Foundation

Dr. David told us that one of the more important things that applicants and winners can do is to support each other. She explained that applicants should visit the Arab America Foundation’s website and read about past awardees. Why is this important? Well, if you are in the midst of the application process, viewing other winners’ bios might give a prospective applicant an idea about how to touch up and perfect their applications. Finally, support is super important because it continues to uplift the entire community.

10. DON’T Give up even if you were not selected:

As with anything, greatness takes time, do not give up even if you were not selected as a winner. Photo: Quotespedia

Make sure to reapply the following year after you were not selected if eligible. The important thing is to “never give up, sharpen your skills, and reapply next year,” according to Dr. David.

11. DO Energize the Community:

You can make an impact on the community by energizing it! Photo: FLT Magazine

Dr. David mentioned another important way to support the community is to “energize and enrich the Arab America Foundation so it may impact other young lives.” You can engage with the Arab America Foundation by volunteering, donating, becoming a “Cousin,” the membership to the Foundation that includes discounts and access to our programs, discussing Arab American heritage with others, and by contacting us to become a member of our many state advocacy teams.

12. DO Attend the Arab America Foundation’s Fall Summit!

Don’t forget: Arab America Foundation’s fall summit is coming soon! We hope to see you there! Photo: Arab America Foundation

Do not forget to attend our Connect Arab America: Empowerment Summit in Fall 2022 to celebrate your success and/or the accomplishments of other awardees. More details about the Summit will be coming in the following months—stay tuned for new information soon!


We hope this “do’s and don’ts” guide has provided prospective applicants with further information on creating a strong application. In addition, if any of our readers are under 40, there is still time to get your application in for Arab America Foundation’s 40 Under 40 initiative. We accept applications until midnight on Wednesday, August 3, 2022. Do not be late!

Finally, we must thank Dr. David and Nabeleh Ghareeb for their time, especially on such short notice, and appreciate their advice, thoughts, and advocacy expertise in sitting down for interviews with us! We hope you have enjoyed this piece, and thank you for reading it!

Now, Yalla Apply and Mabrouk to prior winners!

Check out Arab America’s blog here!