The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Program was what began Wasim Abu Salem’s professional success. He was an exemplary member of the 2015 cohort that came to Montana State University. In his application for the MEPI program, he wrote, “As an Arab citizen of Israel, who studied in an Arabic school that offered a different educational system and programs than Jewish schools, I have noticed that ‘separate but equal’ attitude impairs the Arab community and its future in several manners.” Since he was 13, he had wanted to learn coding, but in Israel, those classes were for undergraduates, and in Hebrew, not in Arabic, which was what he spoke. His application contained an inchoate idea about starting “Arabic Programming Courses” that could use Arab computer science students to teach coding and technology skills to Arab children in Arab cities in Israel. He wanted to be a part of MEPI because “I have yet to establish a full plan for this project and this is what I hope to gain from the MEPI program; to learn and develop abilities for planning and establishing a good project plan, see how others have done so and learn how to seek grants and donations.” On the plane from Washington, D.C. to Bozeman, Montana, he was given a napkin titled "Some of mankind's best ideas were first scribbled on napkins. Here's your chance.", on which he wrote "Loop" to constantly remind himself of the main goal.


Wasim at MSUloop napkin

After his return home, On December 10, 2015, he held the first Loop event, which he had outlined in his MEPI application. It was “an institution offering Arab school-kids to be involved in the Hi-tech [which can] multiply their personal potential and abilities and contribute to society as a whole. Moreover, this institution could offer a great workplace for Arab computer science students who are willing to have a part-time job as tutors during their university studies.” His idea caught fire. Not only was he teaching Arab youth a needed, marketable skill, but he was also keeping them engaged in their community over the long term. “I wanted to design an environment where individuals could discover a sense of belonging, immersing themselves in captivating and meaningful experiences, all while being inspired to contribute to future generations' growth by becoming mentors.” This was the reason for the name, this is what was different — the students eventually become the teachers. A part of the learning was the act of giving back by returning and mentoring the next generation. Wasim had created a way of creating a growing community that was engaged while also learning valuable and relevant skills. “Ultimately, we could build a concept that will last by enabling everyone to benefit and equally give back.”

loop logo

After the first event, things accelerated quickly. In June 2016, just as Loop had reached the 2000 students mark, he was invited to the White House’s Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Silicon Valley. Then, in October of that same year, he was off to speak at the One Young World Summit in Ottawa, Canada. His influence grew as the company passed 8,000 students in 2018. There was expansion across the Arab neighborhoods of Israel. They began incubating start-ups. In 2021, he co-founded Altooro, a company that uses AI to find people with exceptional skills that have been overlooked using traditional hiring methods. 

wasim pic

On January 31 of this year, US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken met with five young leaders of Israeli civil society. Not only was Wasim, one of the five people asked to be in the room, but he was also the only Arab there. The road from Bozeman, Montana to a meeting with the American Secretary of State, has been exciting to watch. “MEPI has made me the best version of me. Without MEPI, I would not be where I am today.” Despite English being his third language, while at Montana State University, he did some public speaking that was recorded, and he remembers his nervousness to speak in front of others. Since then, he has returned to the clip many times and shared it with his mentees. He uses it as a teachable moment to show his students that public speaking is a learnable skill. The video clip also reminds him of how far he has come.

was imagewsa iamge

was image

Now everything has come full circle. Eight years ago, he applied to MEPI hoping for someone to mentor him and help him implement his idea. That idea has come into full view and has succeeded to such a degree that it has elevated him into meetings with the most prominent global dignitaries. He has used his platform to mentor others. The proof of this is that two of Wasim’s mentees are following in his footsteps. The first mentee is an alum of the 2022 MEPI Student Leaders Program, and the second was just accepted into the 2023 cohort and will be going to MSU.

For more information, contact Janelle Rasmussen at [email protected]