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Alumni Success Story: Sebsa

Published September 07, 2023

For Sebsa, a 14-year-old student living in Amman, Jordan, it all began with an ad on social media via the Royal Health Awareness Society, urging teens interested in science and innovation to apply for the Junior Academy Challenge. Sebsa’s curiosity was triggered, but she hesitated at first. Few of her schoolmates shared her passion for science and she had never embarked on a virtual collaborative project.

Yet taking this first step has launched the teen on an exciting new path. Accepted as a Challenge participant, Sebsa teamed up with four other students (one from Jordan, three from the U.S.) to address The Impact of COVID-19 on Non-Communicable Diseases. “We were all a bit nervous when we first met online,” Sebsa says, adding that it took no time for their initial shyness to evaporate. “I immediately realized: this is the type of people I want to connect with.”

For three months, the teenagers collaborated closely via the online Launchpad platform. They chose to focus on diabetes, a condition that affects millions around the world. First, they had to gain better knowledge of the disease. Sebsa’s primary role was to collect data on diabetes in the Middle East. “Our mentor helped us identify good resources,” she says.

The team then discussed innovative ways to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-related lockdowns and restrictions on the treatment of diabetes, eventually opting to create an application that would enable doctors to monitor their diabetic patients remotely. App development was a new field for Sebsa, who feels she learned a lot from the interaction with her teammates.

Completing the challenge required hard work and pressure felt intense at times, Sebsa says. One of four sisters, she enjoyed strong support at home from her family. The end result justified all her efforts. “I am very proud of what we have achieved,” Sebsa says, delighted that her team’s project was named one of the finalists with their contribution. “But the proudest person was my mom, because she works in healthcare, and is my science teacher.”

Submitting the Junior Academy project marked the completion of Sebsa’s first international collaboration, but the teen’s journey into science and innovation is just beginning. At school, she was invited to create a 45-minute presentation about her team’s project and talk about her Junior Academy experience with her classmates, who were impressed with her spirit of initiative and newfound knowledge. Many expressed a wish to follow in her footsteps.

Working across borders with like-minded students has boosted Sebsa’s self-confidence. “She is reaching for the stars and the moon,” jokes her 19-year-old sister Sina. Inspired by this first success, Sebsa is constantly seeking new opportunities to learn and shine. In partnership with her 17-year-old sister Simaza and four other participants, she entered a National Competition for Young Entrepreneurship, organized by Entro Gate, and won first place. After enrolling in a robotics and technology course, Sebsa decided to test her new teamwork skills in a nationwide tournament in Jordan, coming in third in the competition. She has signed up for yet another science program with Jordan’s Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation that focuses on applying science to real-life problem solving.

The Junior Academy Challenge has taught Sebsa important skills such as organization, efficiency, and teamwork. Above all, the experience has fueled her desire to keep pushing her personal boundaries and explore the wide world of science. “I want to study science, but also entrepreneurship,” says the teenager. “I want a career that links the two and doesn’t just benefit me, but enables me to help others.”

The Junior Academy was supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute.

A version of this story was originally published on the Stevens Initiative’s website here.

Applications are currently open for Mentors with the Junior Academy

Applications are accepted on a continuous basis.

All submitted applications will be reviewed and decisions will be shared in August 2023 for Mentors to join the upcoming Fall 2023 term.

Please complete the Mentor Application for Virtual Global STEM Education Programs to apply.