Mission & Leadership

MINA provides mentoring support to refugee and immigrant young adults pursuing admission to college.  The program matches college student leaders with these new Americans who work together to provide the academic and social support needed to pursue a college career.


  • Provide cultural brokering and networking to new American students seeking college admissions
  • Improve academic English skills of refugee students
  • Model professional and academic communication skills for refugee and immigrant students
  • Guide new American students through the college application and financial aid application process
  • Support new American students through the college career
  • Build a network of new American college students, graduates, and professionals
  • Create and nurture career opportunities for new American students in the network of MINA mentors and mentees


MINA was born in an Arab grocery store when Dr. Heval Kelli, a Georgia State alum, former Syrian-Kurdish refugee, and cardiology fellow at Emory University, met Dr. Mary Helen O’Connor, a Georgia State University professor who was shopping with a newly arrived Syrian refugee family.  This partnership has united professionals in the community who share a long-standing commitment to community work with refugees in Clarkston, GA.  After a series of community meetings, the need for more pathways to higher education in the refugee community emerged as a top priority.

Faculty Leadership
Faculty Advisor
Dr. Heval Kelli
Emory University

Faculty Advisor
Dr. Mary Helen O’Connor
Georgia State University

Student Leadership

I was born a mentor to my younger siblings and cousins. I am there to guide, and protection, this quality of mine quickly spread to others. I am very active within my community. I volunteer at our local community center and mentor the young girls. I saw that they did not have much support when they shared their dreams with other and decided that I would be that support and I would help nurture their dreams.

When I discovered MINA, it did not take long for me to want to get involved. I signed up as a mentor, and in no time I was in love with the organization. The people (mentors, board members, mentees, etc.) were so kind and genuine, the cause was noble, and the organization as a whole had so much heart. I was at every event, most all tutoring sessions, and did extra whenever I could. I am honored to be gifted the pleasure of being president of MINA. I keep all those qualities that made me fall in love with this organization alive.

Recruitment & Outreach
I joined MINA as a mentor when the organization was founded in 2016. I also currently serve as the Director of Recruitment. I enjoy being part of MINA because I feel like this is the place where I belong. I know how it feels like to be a mentee. When I came to the United States as a refugee, I had almost lost the hope of ever earning a degree. The war in Syria escalated after I graduated from high school, so college was not an option at the time. I wanted to continue my education, but it did not seem possible.

Upon arrival to Georgia, I quickly discovered that I had to learn the college admission process on my own. I set up admission appointments with Perimeter College, filled out paperwork, asked financial aid questions, and made many mistakes along the way. At the time, I wished for there to be an organization like MINA to guide me through the very complicated college admission process.

I learned about MINA after I was enrolled as a Perimeter College student. I knew that I would be able to help their mentees, because I just experienced the process myself. I was in the inaugural class of mentors who first volunteered to help refugee students, just like me, apply to college, continue their education, and earn a degree to hopefully build a bright future for themselves. I’m grateful for MINA for many reasons, but mostly because it gives young refugees and new Americans the chance to prove that we can do anything we set our minds to, regardless of the circumstances that we have experienced.

Recruitment & Outreach
I am from the very simple yet beautiful state of Indiana where we have corn for you, your neighbors and your neighbor’s neighbors. I moved to Georgia three years ago on faith full of passion and zeal to make a difference in this world. I got connected to MINA a year and a half ago, and this group of passionate leaders in the community are doing just that: making a difference in this world. I longed to contribute in any small way to this movement of love lead by members in the community who take education very seriously and believe in creating equity for those the system fails and continues to fail. What I love most about MINA is that we do not just aspire to help with the present, but we want the future for our mentees and mentors to look dramatically different. We want them to be the future of their homes, communities, and without any hesitation, of this country.

I came to the United States six years ago and enrolled at Georgia State University in 2017.  I learned about MINA from a friend and decided to join. I was really excited to be part of MINA because I came from Ethiopia and struggled with several obstacles.  Now, I volunteer my time so other immigrants do not have to suffer or experience the same hardships I have faced.  I would love to see all our MINA students succeed and be a good example to others. I’m excited to use all my potential along with my MINA leadership team to better our student’s future and our organization.

Social Media
I was born in Pakistan.  I am studying international relations and pursuing pre-law as a senior at Georgia State University. After college, I aim to work in a non-profit environment, assuring to empower the community as well as advocate for refugee empowerment, mental health and the end of human trafficking.  I have previously served as legislative aide in the Georgia State Capital and vice president of the Student Government Association at Georgia Gwinnett College.  I have also served as a active student advocate throughout my college career.  In my free time, I love to travel, explore new adventures, and engage in social causes and humanitarian efforts.

Administrative Coordinator
I am a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University.  My focus of study is gender and sexuality; however, I am also interested in the broader area of inequalities. As an international student who lives in Clarkston/Stone Mountain, I am excited to work for the community in which I live. Perimeter College’s Clarkston campus is well situated to be able to serve the refugee community.  MINA is great asset to the area and I see great things for the organization in the future.  I look forward to working alongside an amazing team to see MINA grow.

Founding Members
Sheen Atwa
Saqib Qadir
Alex Santos
Noor Awad
Agi Nyass
Paulette Omeaku
Smah Abdelhamid
Leanna Deeb
Ahmed Awad