HANDS is privileged to have worked with Amira Hassan, one of our Egyptian Professional Fellows Program alumni. One of Amira’s most impressive accomplishments since spending one month in the U.S. with HANDS’ Professional Fellows Program, is successfully developing a web-based self-learning tool: a career guidance game. This interactive game offers students and adults suggestions about which careers best suit their  interests and abilities.

Amira is passionate about education reform and has 13 years of professional experience working in international organizations on improving the education system in Egypt. As part of her job, Amira oversees 40 different career guidance centers at technical schools. In the 2011-2012 academic year, about 55% of secondary students in Egypt were enrolled in technical schools. Amira has developed various resources that assist these students in applying their abilities to an occupation.

Amira applied to the Professional Fellows Program in 2013 and was placed with Philadelphia Works, a workforce employment development agency. HANDS carefully tailors each job placement to the fellows’ background and interests, to ensure they have the most fulfilling time during their fellowship. She believed that the fellowship would be a unique opportunity to improve her professional experience as well as providing her with the opportunity to learn how strategies and activities here in the U.S. can be implemented in Egypt.

At Philadelphia Works, Amira observed different workforce development programs and how they effectively used online resources and other career guidance tools to assist students’ transition into the work force.

Philadelphia Works gave her the opportunity to go on-site with a visit to Pierce College in Philadelphia, where she saw their career center use a special survey for students who are unsure about their career paths. The result of the survey was a suggestion of what career best suited the student. This approach sparked an innovative idea for Amira to incorporate technology into her career guidance work at vocational schools in Egypt.

With the tools she learned from her experience in the U.S., upon Amira’s return to Egypt, she started to create a web-based self-learning career guidance tool which combined users’ hobbies, interests, and strengths to create a school-to-career guide with useful information for students entering the workforce. The tool is intended to be an interactive game where users receive tangible results. During the initial phases of her project, Amira was constantly in contact with Pierce College, from whom she received many valuable tips.

Amira envisioned the project herself and set it into motion. She saw immediate results once the students in career centers had access to the program. She noticed how much more engaged in career guidance students were because of the game-like format of the program.

After its initial success, Amira distributed the game to 200 schools, at least 56 of which have adopted it into their curriculum. In order to increase students’ access, Amira also developed an offline downloadable CD version of the game. Her product has been widely acclaimed and is very popular with students who have regained interests in their transition into the work force. Amira’s next goal is to expand this tool into an app to increase access to students throughout Egypt.

Over the years, Amira kept in touch with her host organization, sharing resources from both sides. This past February, Amira’s mentor from Philadelphia Works participated in HANDS’ reverse exchange program and was happy to see the app flourishing in Egyptian technical schools.

HANDS is proud of Amira and the rest of our Professional Fellows Program alumni for all of their accomplishments. We are grateful for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, other HANDS donors, and the local American host organizations. They have enabled leaders like Amira to access new ideas through fellowships in the U.S. that can transform life for their communities and build stronger professional and personal relationships between MENA region and the U.S.