Michele Pratusevich


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July 10, 2013

MEET the program

As every MIT undergrad does, I was looking for something interesting to do with my summer. I knew I was going to be graduating in June and was looking for a unique summer experience. I had already decided early in Fall 2012 (my fall semester senior year) that I would take a gap year between the end of my undergrad and the start of my MEng (Master’s in Engineering) at MIT. But I wanted to kick off my year with the right summer experience - MEET was the answer.

MEET in general

I had heard about MEET, but all that I knew about it was that it stood for “Middle East Education through Technology” and that they taught computer science to Israeli and Palestinian high school students.

Knowing basically nothing about the program and knowing no one who had done it before (later it turned out I did, but when decision time came I didn’t know that), I felt drawn to what MEET was trying to do. I was drawn to it’s ideals, goals, mission, and vision.

Look at the mission for yourself: “Our mission is to educate and empower tomorrow’s most promising Palestinian and Israeli leaders to take action towards creating positive economic, political, and social impact in the Middle East.” (taken straight from their website). By investing many resources into a small group of students, MEET was aiming to foster a network of future Israeli and Palestinian leaders, doers, facilitators, entrepreneurs. I agreed with the philosophy. Young people are the ones who will make change. Education is key. Technology is a vector for problem solving skills, modernization, critical thinking, teamwork. I specifically liked the idea of a longer program - I didn’t think a one-off camp or academic program would come close to achieving the mission. MEET was not a one-off program (students in MEET were in the program for three years and then even later through an alumni program), so it sounded more plausible.

For students in MEET, their commitment was high: they committed at the minimum one month every summer, and one 3-hour weekly meeting for the two intervening years. They came to MEET with a strong academic record, a good working knowledge of English (all classes are taught in English), and a high score in a group dynamics test. During the summer after their freshman year in high school, they became “Y1s”. By the time they were Y3s, they would be ready to take on the world as entrepreneurs, makers, doers, and facilitators of change.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of making change in the Middle East through one small program is a crazy idea. But no one makes big change without a few big ideas. Even though the outcomes from MEET’s interventions could not be measurable for years to come, my gut feeling told me it was a worthwhile investment of my time and energy.

I wanted to be a part of MEET - to work with the students and the staff to come one step closer to the ultimate vision. I applied, interviewed, and was accepted as a summer instructor for summer 2013.

At the time, here is what the student CS curriculum looked like:

  • Year 1:
    • Summer: Introduction to programming (python)
    • Yearlong: Skill building, personal projects, HTML/CSS introduction
  • Year 2:
    • Summer: Web programming (MVC design pattern, HTML/CSS, Javascript, Django)
    • Yearlong: Skill practice, integration with business, group project ideation and workplan
  • Year 3:
    • Summer: Group project completion

And I wanted to play my part.

me and MEET

To be honest, I did not know much about the conflict in the Middle East (let alone specifically Jerusalem) before I began preparing for MEET. It was an issue that unfortunately did not mean anything to me in my daily life in the United States, and it’s and one that the media does not feel the need to seamlessly cover. I knew it was a conflict and I knew I didn’t know about it. While I was going to be in Jerusalem I was determined to find out more.

I was asked many questions from friends at home and abroad about why I chose to do MEET. From the American camp I heard: Are you Jewish? Is that why you are personally invested in the conflict? Are you interested in international development work? Humanitarian aid? NGOs? Aren’t you giving up a lot of time and money for something you won’t do for a living? Are you crazy? It’s dangerous there.

And from the Middle East I heard: What is your religion? Will you make aliyah (both the good and the bad connotations)? What made you give up your summer to come to Jerusalem instead? Why do you think computer science is a tool for change?

After thinking about these questions and many more of my own, I came up with a list of goals I wanted to achieve over the summer at MEET, and to reflect on later:

  • Understand the historical context for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • Discuss with Israeli and Palestinian adults the meaning of the conflict to them
  • Form an opinion about the conflict
  • Assess my opinions for whether MEET’s mission will help solve the conflict
  • Finalize my relationship with religion

MEET is an amazing program. Shalom, Salaam.

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All Posts about MEET

2013 September 22 -- MEET Fellowship

2013 July 25 -- MEET summer 2013 on mostly academics

2013 July 22 -- MEET project descriptions from Summer 2013

2013 July 10 -- MEET the program