Just Falafel, the UAE-based company that has propelled a traditional Middle Eastern food to global recognition, rolled out ‘Help Us Help You’ community outreach campaign that is aimed at supporting a student’s dream with an academic scholarship. Launched in January 2012, the initiative was open to any individual pursuing higher education.
Students from all over the world submitted a two-minute video message expressing why they deserve the prize and how they will give back to the community someday.
Aqil Rashid was declared the winner. The young boy from Pakistan who was 15 years old back then, dedicated much of his time in building drinking wells in remote villages in Afghanistan.
Today, Just Falafel’s “Help Us Help You” campaign winner, now 17, has been accepted to the prestigious Ivy League Brown University in the United States that honed successful individuals like John D. Rockefeller Jr., John F. Kennedy Jr. and CNN founder and media mogul Ted Turner.
Aqil says he feels “Ecstatic, blessed and grateful” to be given this opportunity by Just Falafel and says he realises “He has an opportunity that lots of kids don’t have and he will make the best of it.”
He was awarded the prize when he was in Grade 10, at 15 years old and says it acted as a huge incentive for him to pass his exams to make his dream of an Ivy League university become a reality.
With hard work and determination, qualities that Just Falafel CEO Fadi Malas saw from the beginning, Aqil scored straight A’s in his exams and gained six offers to American Universities. He said it was a tough decision to choose between Brown, University of Pennsylvania (Upenn), UCLA, UC Berkley and Emory, that caused much discussion between family and friends.
He chose Brown, the 7th oldest college in the USA and once again saw loyal family and friends come together to support him, just like in the competition two years ago. Aqil says he still remembers waiting for the decision, constantly pressing the “refresh” button on his computer to see if he had won and running to wake up his parents with the news after Just Falafel contacted him.
The award from Just Falafel, that offered to pay fees for any school anywhere in the world, he says, forced him to get organised quickly. As soon as he won, he began scouring the world for universities abroad. Aqil, whose family is originally from Pakistan, says that he is interested in a technology-related course as his passion is studying how technology will be shaping the world when he graduates in four years’ time.
The competition has opened up the power of social media, an initiative by Just Falafel, who itself has been the subject of a case study by Facebook on how to use Facebook Pages and Ads to drive brand awareness and generate franchise leads.
Aqil says he is looking forward to university life and thinks that his multi-cultural upbringing and education in Dubai will make the transition to being an overseas graduate easier.
He says “in the UAE you are exposed to many different cultures and cannot afford to be narrow-minded.”