Wendy Grossman
September 07, 2009 12:00 PM

Joseph Katona, 21

Los Angeles

Growing up in Ramallah, Palestine, Omar Dreidi always dreamed of going to college in America. So in 2006, when he got accepted into Earlham College in Richmond, Ind., Omar was elated. There was just one problem: Even with a partial scholarship and a work-study job, he couldn’t afford the $42,000 for tuition and expenses. One night Omar called his best friend, Joseph Katona. They had met two years earlier at Seeds of Peace (seedsofpeace.org), a camp in Maine that brings together children from areas of conflict. The boys became fast friends after an emotional discussion about their desire for peace in the Middle East. “From that day on I felt that Joey understood me,” says Omar, 20. After camp ended, they e-mailed and called regularly and visited each other’s families. Yet Omar was still shocked when Joseph said he would raise the tuition money himself. “It was like someone telling me, ‘Your dream is going to come true,'” says Omar.

By soliciting family, writing grants and digging in his own pocket, Joseph has raised more than $60,000. Omar, a business major, plans to pay back his friend, but Joseph isn’t concerned. “If I could do this to give him a chance to have a more successful future, why wouldn’t I?” he says.


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