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 Arabic grocery store in when Dr. Heval Kelli, a former Syrian refugee and cardiology fellow at Emory University, met Dr. Mary Helen O’Connor, a Georgia State University professor.  Mary Helen 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
Dr. Heval Kelli  (Emory)
Dr. Mary Helen O’Connor  – Faculty Advisor (GSU) – [email protected]

Student Leadership

Isaac King – President (GSU) – [email protected]

Penny Harvey – [email protected]
Alex Santos – Vice President of Communications (GSU) – [email protected]
Katelyn Cole – Vice President of Recruitment/Retention (IUPUI) – [email protected]
Islam Farhan – Secretary (GSU) – [email protected]

Founding Members

 Sheen Atwa (GSU)
Saqib Qadir (Emory)
Alex Santos (GSU)
Noor Awad (Emory)
Agi Nyass (KSU)
Paulette Omeaku (GSU)
Smah Abdelhamid (Emory)
Leanna Deeb (GSU)
Ahmed Awad (Vanderbilt)