As a dedicated advocate for peace building and conflict resolution, Hicham El Hadad is actively working to build the bridge of communication between youth and local officials in his community to address and find solutions to problems affecting youth in Northern Morocco. Since he returned from the Student Leaders program funded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) in 2014, Hicham has used his experience in leadership and civic engagement to inspire youth in marginalized areas to become leaders and change-makers in their communities. Through his work with international organizations such as Search for Common Ground and a youth project called Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement for Today’s Youth (FORSATY) , Hicham is decreasing the resonance of violent extremist messages among at-risk youth in Morocco and spreading messages of tolerance, coexistence, and diversity. Hicham manages the Morocco CVE Media Training Program, which aims to empower vulnerable Moroccan youth. The project has produced three media campaigns that have reached more than 1.5 million Moroccans through social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube.

Hicham is a strong believer in the power of mentoring and giving back to the community.  He travels to cities across Morocco to lead trainings on innovative leadership, youth engagement, peace building, and countering violent extremism. He also mentors and shares his experiences with other international exchange alumni in order to foster community connections. In 2017, he took part in the Department of State-sponsored Beyond YES Summit hosted in Amman, Jordan where he trained Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program alumni from the Middle East and North Africa in the field of innovative leadership and peace building and helped them develop their community projects. He also participated in the MEPI for Student Leaders Capstone Seminar in which he trained MEPI alumni in countering violent extremism and supported Moroccan alumni in building their action plans and expanding their networks in Morocco.

Hicham’s early exchange experiences and continued growth have been the driving force in his path to become an alumni leader and community influencer. He notes, “I always say that thanks to the opportunities I had during my exchange experience that I am this person. It is a journey that started when I was 15 years old as an Access student and continued when I took part in MEPI’s Student Leaders program at Benedictine University. The latter was a lifelong experience that made me make the decision to dedicate my whole life to youth engagement, which is now my career path.”

Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Office of Alumni Affairs recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna.  The International Exchange Alumni community looks forward to seeing what Hicham will do next, and congratulates him on being named the March 2018 Exchange Alumni Member of the Month!