The first class of Israeli and Palestinian high school students enrolled in Middle East Education Through Technology (MEET), an MIT-led nonprofit and nonpolitical grassroots summer program, will graduate this year in Jerusalem.
The 18 students are the first to complete the three-year program, which teaches computer programming, problem-solving, teamwork and leadership skills.
Founded in 2003 by MIT students and siblings Anat and Yaron Binur, the MEET model is one that is encountered in businesses around the world -- students are expected to work together, like professionals, to advance goals within culturally and politically diverse environments.
"MEET puts an emphasis on bringing together the academic and business worlds of the region, with the belief that a positive dialogue in the Middle East will be greatly enhanced by such partnerships," said Anat, who, like her brother, holds dual Israeli and U.S. citizenship. "Identities are reframed around professional interests rather than political ideologies, and stereotypes gradually begin to take a back seat to cooperation and relationship building. The controlled atmosphere of a summer program is an excellent place to start building these relationships, but it is out in the realities of their region in which they must thrive."
The MEET curriculum is based on methodology developed by faculty from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and MIT Sloan School of Management. MEET is further supported by business and academic leaders from the Middle East, the United States and Europe.
A three-year educational program, MEET is divided into two main components: three five-week summer courses and a yearlong software development project. MEET is hosted by Hebrew University in Jerusalem and taught by MIT students and alumni. Mentors continue working throughout the year with the students on developing their projects.
"With my background in business and engineering, I hope to represent a neutral professional source around which the students can come together," said Sloan graduate student Shahid Rashid, who is teaching at MEET this summer.
The 2006 summer session will include a total of 70 Palestinian and Israeli students who will be taught by a team of 11 students from MIT.
MEET students are carefully selected from more than 25 Israeli and Palestinian high schools across four Israeli and Palestinian cities. This year more than 270 students competed for 30 spots in MEET's entering class.
Each MEET student receives a full scholarship that covers all costs of the program, including tuition, teaching materials, transportation and food for a full year of the MEET experience (valued at $2,500). The students are not expected to pay for any of the MEET activities.
"During a tense time in the region, the MEET program represents a unique approach and a real hope for the future," said Abeer Hazboun, MEET's Palestinian director. "The experiences of the Israeli and Palestinian students, as well as our MIT instructors, is one which changes their entire perspective and shows the way in which, despite conflict, people can work together to achieve common professional goals."
For more on MEET, please visit meet.csail.mit.edu.