Alum raises college funds for Palestinian

By Hana Al-Henaid

Joey Katona ’06 is currently raising money for the Omar Dreidi Scholarship Fund, which he founded in 2006 to help his Palestinian friend Omar Dreidi pay for college. To date, Katona has raised about $60,000 for the fund.

Dreidi was accepted to Earlham College in 2006 with a partial scholarship and a work study job; however, he needed additional financial support.

During the spring of 2006, Katona visited Dreidi at his home in Ramallah, where they discussed college plans. Upon learning about Dreidi’s situation, Katona volunteered to raise the extra funds himself, he said.

“It didn’t seem right to me that I could attend university wherever I chose simply based on the favorable situation into which I was born and Omar could not,” Katona said. “At first, I planned to raise far less money – about half of what I ended up raising – from just a handful of family friends. The fund obviously exploded, and I now have a network of about 75 individual and family donors.”

Katona and Dreidi met as teenagers during the summer of 2004, when they both attended an international conflict resolution camp in Maine called Seeds of Peace. The camp brings together Palestinians, Israelis and youth from six other countries to “help young people from regions of conflict develop the leadership skills necessary to advance reconciliation and coexistence,” according to the Seeds of Peace mission statement.

As of September, Katona still has to raise $26,000 to ensure that Dreidi graduates in May 2010.

In the event Katona raises more money than that, he may establish a non-profit organization to support similar educational pursuits, he said.

“I am very much still raising funds,” Katona said. “The media coverage that we have received over the last 3 years has really helped. “

Although he initially believed most of the contributors would come from a few family friends, the majority of the donors contacted him after reading articles in local college papers and online.

Katona was also featured as a “Hero Among Us” in September’s PEOPLE Magazine.

“Right now, I’m most concerned with raising enough money to ensure Omar graduates,” Katona said. “Hopefully the PEOPLE article and follow-up press will help make that a reality.”

For more information on the Omar Dreidi Scholarship Fund, e-mail [email protected]