Advisory Board

LEAP Advisory Board: Serve as volunteer-staff of LEAP by coordinating and executing all its work to ensure the smooth implementation of its educational projects and advocacy efforts.

Adam Fitzgerald is a director, filmmaker, writer, and content creator whose work has been recognized by numerous reputable and notable awards and publications. Adam is currently the Main Stage LiveProgram Coordinator at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Adam previously served on the Board of Directors for kef theatrical productions (for which he was the founding Artistic Director) and GLSEN NYC (an anti-bullying educational initiative) and is thrilled to be dedicating his experience in non-profit leadership to the LEAP Program.

Dayana Khatib is a student of communications, and refugee law. She has volunteered with the program since its inaugural cycle of the SHINE Project in 2010. Since then, Dayana has remained involved wearing many hats primarily as the lead SHINE Coordinator and as an active member of the Advisory Board since 2012.

Dima Abi Saab is a PhD student in the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies department at New York University on the Culture and Representation track, where she is focusing on post-war ‘reconciliation’ efforts in an attempt to understand the reconfiguration of space and power in Lebanon.  She has been involved with the LEAP program since the summer of 2011, as both project coordinator for LEAP’s SHINE Program in Bourj el Shalame Camp from 2013-2015, and a member of the Advisory Board from 2012.

Jen Cohn was born and raised in Rhode Island, but has lived in New York City for the past 5 years. She received her BA in History from the University of Vermont, with a concentration in African and Middle Eastern history. Since graduation, she has worked in fundraising and communications for three NYC nonprofit organizations. In the summer of 2015, Jen was a volunteer with LEAP’s SHINE project at Bourj el Shemale refugee camp in Lebanon. Jen is currently pursuing her Masters of Social Work from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. As a clinician, her goal is to help equip a generation of self-assured young people to dismantle systemic oppressions and promote racial and gender equity.

Mazen Youssef is an educator in Detroit, MI. He graduated from the University of Michigan. Mazen discovered his passion in education through studying the pedagogical works of educational sociologists and working with Detroit school communities. His purpose for education as a teacher is to create opportunities for children to cultivate their unique gifts and skills in tandem with building intellectual capacity and social awareness. Mazen is committed to social justice and to partnering with communities of color seeking liberation through empowerment. He enjoys traveling, playing sports, listening to music, watching documentaries, and cooking.

Michael Avanzato is a graduate student in the Public Policy and International Affairs program at the American University of Beirut (AUB), and also works in the department.  Previously, he was the Project Coordinator for LEAP’s SHINE 2017 project in the Bourj el Shamale camp, and a volunteer in Rashidieh camp in 2015.  He has also worked in refugee resettlement in the United States, and in education in Palestine.  During his time in the Middle East, Michael has studied and continues to study Arabic and public policy, with particular attention to the pernicious effects of imperialism on the region.  Michael has studied state refugee policy within the Middle East at the University of Massachusetts, and there he joined the group Students for Justice in Palestine. Since that time, he has been passionate concerning justice for refugees, and concerning the importance of international solidarity.

Mohammad Khatib has over five years of experience in the non-profit sector. He has a Bachelor of Commerce and Economic from Damascus University. While in Syria, he worked for two years as a Junior Accountant in a trading company before migrating to Lebanon. In Lebanon, he worked with various organizations such as Caritas International as Education Project Coordinator where he gained experience in international education and collaborated with UNHCR and UNICEF to support educational efforts for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. He coordinated projects in collaboration with other active actors in terms of responding to the Syrian crisis. He has also gained a wide range of skills in planning, coordinating and managing relief and development projects, through working as a Center Manager for a youth community center under the UNICEF-led No Lost Generation campaign. Recently, Mohammad moved to Toronto, Canada where he is working as a Youth Advisor with the YMCA support newcomers and settlement programs.


Moné Makkawi has been involved with LEAP since 2013, when she first volunteered with Project SHINE. Her professional development within LEAP has taken form as a teacher, Project & Community Coordinator, and member of the Advisory Board. Moné has worked on issues of restorative justice on various levels as a teacher in California, a member of various SJPs, and organizing as a Joint Delegate in NYU’s Graduate Student Union. She is a first year Ph.D. student in NYU’s department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. She works on issues of infrastructure, refugees, and space in Lebanon, with the hopes of developing her activism and pursuit of social justice through academia. Moné is looking forward to the future of LEAP, and working to amplify the voices of Palestinian refugee youth and communities.

Sarah Issa holds her Masters in Public Policy from Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and a Bachelors in Political Science and Economics from Rutgers University. She is a NJ certified teacher and has been teaching for 11 years. She has also freelanced as a consultant to both teachers and administrators advising on curricula writing, non-traditional project based learning, and delivery styles. Sarah has worked with many local organizations specifically providing programs targeting at-risk youth. She is passionate about education and providing opportunities for the youth. Sarah is a descendant of Palestinian refugees and grew up around the world with her family. She enjoys reading and a good cup of coffee. Today, she calls Ridgewood, New Jersey home. She lives there with her husband, four children, Ernest the fish, and Hemingway the cat.

Yeou-Shiuh Hsu began organizing as a Palestine solidarity activist following a 10-day trip in 2010 to Palestine and Israel with an Interfaith Peace-Builders delegation. Since the delegation, he has been involved with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund-Rutgers University chapter, SJP-Rutgers New Brunswick, Princeton Committee on Palestine, Princeton Middle East Society, and the Jewish Voice for Peace-Central New Jersey. He is a LEAP veteran and has been involved since his first summer in 2011. He holds a B.A. in Biology and Physics from Franklin & Marshall College. He has close to two decades of experience working in print and online media, and is currently working as a graphic designer in the marketing department of a technology firm.

Learn about our Leadership Team and our Board of Directors, responsible for driving LEAP to meet its strategic objectives and fundraising goals.

LEAP Program

LEAP is a grassroots volunteer program established to provide educational empowerment projects to support the intellectual growth and creative curiosity of refugee-youth in Lebanon so they may become agents of change. As an apolitical humanitarian US-based organization, LEAP aims to raise awareness about the plight of Palestinian refugees in general, but particularly in Lebanon, to American volunteers.

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