Success Stories

Success Stories

Walid Issa ’13
Student and peace activist

Walid Issa '13

Walid Issa is working an award winning graduate student who is working to to empower and connect entrepreneurial people living in Palestine and Israel to work together for a better future for the region.

Walid Issa’s journey began in a Palestinian refugee camp and continues today at St. Cloud State University.

At 16, after witnessing the killing of his teacher in Palestine, Issa was given the chance to heal through the Minnesota-based Ark for Peace program, which eventually lead him to a bachelor’s degree in economics at St. Cloud State.

His story became international news in the summer of 2012 when Issa traveled to Washington, D.C., for an internship experience among a group of five Israelis and five Palestinians through New Story Leadership (NSL) for the Middle East to be part of a radically different approach to peace-building.

He has since been invited to speak about his experience at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at The Johns Hopkins University and was interviewed by C-SPAN and other high-profile media outlets.

Issa is the co-founder of Shades, with his NSL counterpart Lior Frankiensztajn, an organization that aims to bring together Israeli and Palestinian students for intense training in negotiations and creative problem-solving skills. He has also initiated SAWA, a nonpolitical crowd-funded website that invites any person living in Palestine or Israel to share a creative, entrepreneurial or inventive idea in need of funding. The website removes the geographical barriers that prohibit connectivity and seeks to empower people to work together for a better future in the region.

“Education is the way to lead people to challenge the toxic ideologies that create fear and hate,” Issa said. “Peace is not God’s gift; it’s what people give each other.”

Issa is continuing his studies at St. Cloud State by working toward a master’s degree in applied economics.

“Walid is a very special student,” said King Banaian, professor of economics and director of the School of Public Affairs and Research Institute, where Issa was a graduate assistant. “… He runs nonprofits; he gets grants; he develops and executes programs. He is someone who, despite all he’s done, still has a humility and a sense of wonder when something good happens for him. It’s really refreshing to have someone do so well who has such a grateful heart and an inquiring mind.”

For his efforts, Issa has received the Welter World Citizen Award from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the 2014 Minnesota Campus Compact President’s Student Leadership Award at St. Cloud State.

To see video of Issa’s C-SPAN interview, visit http://cs.pn/1gXahmy.

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