Students Honored at 5th AEP Forum
Cultures connected at the historic Elkader Opera House on Saturday, May 3. Honored guests and interested visitors gathered for the 5th annual Abdelkader Education Project Forum. 2014 Abdelkader Global Leadership Prize essay winners at both high school and college levels were honored.
“Abdelkader left a trail worth following. Now, in this world of hate and hostility, the Emir’s legacy becomes even more vital to our global society,” commented Rebecca Alcock of Decorah, Iowa. “His legacy represents more than just a man who kept his promise; it illustrates a life of serving people for their betterment.” Being first to be honored in two categories, Alcock placed first in the Iowa High School contest and second in the U.S. High School contest. Her awards were $1,000 and $500, respectively.
Two other high school students received scholarship prizes. Michael Keen of Bethesda, Maryland, won the $1,000 first place prize at the U.S. High School level. At the Iowa High School level, Michael Banwarth of Wahlert Catholic High School in Dubuque received the $500 second place prize.

U.S. Collegiate winners include first place Claire Wiebe, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who received $1,500 and second place Sara Ritchie, Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, who received $1,000. “Abdelkader was an inspiring figure, and reading and writing about the life of Abdelkader has had a profound impact upon my life,” noted Wiebe in her acceptance speech.
“His life has shown me that no matter what religion you identify with, what level of society you are from, or what country you call home, you can always improve the world.”
Keynote Daisy Khan of New York City is hailed a link between moderate Islam and the West. She drew from personal experience as she discussed “Emir Abdelkader – A True Muslim Hero: Connecting Cultures, Countering Extremism” and addressed the numerous fallacies in the world about the Muslim faith. Khan stated, “The solution to extremism comes from within a community.” Her desire to promote this message is part of the reason she co-founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement.
Dr. Liang Chee Wee, President of Northeast Iowa Community College, and Dr. Farid Amiroche of Chicago spoke of the importance in sharing Abdelkader’s heroic life story with the young minds of future generations. Both urged attendees to follow Abdelkader’s example and to learn about other cultures and religions, as it is our responsibility to ensure a better world for tomorrow.
In addition to an overview of AEP outreach activities, author of “Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883)”, John Kiser highlighted Emir Abdelkader’s message as related to current and future educational growth opportunities.
The AEP Forum concluded with discussions and camaraderie as attendees reflected on the day’s events, parting as companions to carry out the legacy of the Emir.
The 5th Annual Abdelkader Education Project Forum was made possible with generous support from the following sponsors: Algerian Embassy; Diversity Focus; Elkader Development Group; Elkader Floral Shop; Fennelly’s; FreedomBank; Humanities Iowa and National Endowment for the Humanities; Northeast Iowa Community College; Opera House Players; Principal Financial Group; Shuttleworth & Ingersoll, P.L.C.; SignsNFrames; and Friends of Abdelkader
Abdelkader Education Project (AEP, Inc.) is a non-profit organization that endeavors to broaden global perspectives about the Middle East and Islamic culture through the legacy of Emir Abdelkader (1808-1883). His life story inspires cultural literacy, civility, tolerance, and understanding while exploring models of ethical leadership, moral courage and humanitarian conduct. With roots in Elkader, Iowa, the AEP is a citizen diplomacy initiative with the belief that all citizens have a vital role to play in global citizen diplomacy. Learn more at ” target=”_blank” style=”color: #606060;font-weight: normal;text-decoration: underline;word-wrap: break-word !important;”>