Essay Contest Winners

The Mahmoud S Taman Foundation is pleased to announce six awardees for its 2018 essay contest, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. In keeping with the Foundation’s mission to embrace a more racially and ethnically diverse and inclusive environment in the Chippewa Valley, students in high school grades 9 to 12 were invited to participate in the educational initiative on global citizenship, civil society, and diversity in the context of local communities in the Chippewa Valley. The six students were selected for their thoughtful essays on the topics.


The winners are: Abagail Opsal, a 2018 graduate of McDonell Central Catholic High School in Chippewa Falls, Megan Hu, a rising senior at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Mingyu (Michael) Liu, a rising junior at Regis High School in Eau Claire, Nati Raehl, a 2018 graduate also from Regis High School, Wyatt Eiden, a 2018 graduate of Chippewa Falls Senior High School, and Regina Gravrok, a rising senior at Holy Family Home School in Eau Claire. Each student was awarded a cash prize of $200 or $300.


Student essays addressed questions related their understanding of racial, gender, and cultural diversity mean in their community, addressed the contributions of immigrant communities the area, discussed how the religion of Islam positively integrated itself into modern American culture and society and how the history of the Muslim community in the Chippewa Valley enriched the local culture, or how the goals of the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations is relevant to our community.


The essence of the contest is highlighted in this excerpt from Megan’s Hu’s essay:


“Looking across the Chippewa Valley, closest to home is my high school’s changing face. For an uncomfortably long time, Memorial has been a place where diversity and its celebration has quite simply not been a reality. I stand as part of the 13% of our student body that is a racial minority. In 2018 on Martin Luther King Day, Memorial High School hosted the first Diversity Day in its history. We lent our voices to poems, spoke to an auditorium of our classmates, and got over our fears of being different to sing songs of peace. We worked our hardest, not to erase each of our rich identities but to celebrate them.”


Thom Chisholm, M.D., a director of the Foundation’s board said, “The six student winners represent thoughtful and dedicated youth leaders in our community and the Foundation commends.”


Each student winner is highlighted here.

Essay Contest Winners


Megan Hu is a rising senior at Memorial High School in Eau Claire whose activities include playing flute in band and orchestra, acting as a coordinator for Women’s March Wisconsin, and regularly volunteering at the Bolton Refuge House. She entered the essay contest because she was excited to see not only the acceptance, but promotion of diversity, and welcomed the challenge to write about something she deeply cares about. She believes her community is in the process of actively growing to reach a warmer, more inclusive future. Her plans after high school are to attend college and she is searching for a field of interest. In her lifetime, she wishes to actively take part in the journey to see our communities become a more diverse, inclusive place through activism.


Mingyu (Michael) Liu is a rising junior at Regis High School in Eau Claire. His hobbies are playing tennis, playing clarinet in band, and participating in mock trial. Michael wanted his essay to express his belief in the importance of diversity in today’s world. He believes his community is a place where everyone belongs. He wishes to pursue high education and make a change in the world for the better.


Wyatt Eiden, a 2018 graduate of Chippewa Falls Senior High School, enjoys stacklining (robe balancing), and the outdoors. He believes the Chippewa Valley is full of amazing people who change the lives of others. Wyatt plans is to attend the University of Wisconsin - Madison and pursue an education in one of the medical fields. He wishes to help as many people as he can in his lifetime.


Regina Gravrok is a rising senior at Holy Family Home School in Eau Claire. She plays piano, competes in speech and takes taekwondo. She believes diversity is the key to strong community and that the Chippewa Valley showcases this diversity. Regina’s future plans including pursuing a degree in business and finance. She hopes that her life will be full of fulfilling, quality relationships. Regina won the Lake Hallie Optimists Essay Contest in Feb 2018.



Abagail Opsal is a 2018 graduate of McDonell Central Catholic High School. Her hobbies and activities include volleyball, basketball, reading, writing, baking, and spending time with friends and family. She entered the Mahmoud S Taman Foundation’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion essay contest because she strongly stands with the Foundation’s mission and believes the people in the Chippewa Valley are always willing to help one another. Abagail plans is to attend the University of Wisconsin - Madison majoring in biochemistry. She hopes to complete a PhD in pharmacy and leave a positive impact on every person she encounters in her life.



Nati Raehl is a 2018 graduate from Regis High School. His hobbies and activities include playing football and tennis. He entered the Mahmoud S Taman Foundation’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion essay contest because as an African-American immigrant he thought he had something to add to the conversation. He believes his community, the Chippewa Valley, has been a welcoming one. His future plans after high school are to study Sports Management at the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. In his lifetime, he wishes to find a fulfilling job, raise a family, and give back to his community.


Past Islamic Studies Scholarship Recipients

Since 2009, the Mahmoud S Taman Trust has been providing scholarships, through the Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin, for North American students specializing in Islamic studies with a goal to work as educators in the field.  The scholarships were granted to undergraduate and graduate students who pursued careers involving a lifelong commitment to Islam. The vision for this program is to support the development of a new generation of Muslim leaders and scholars who focus on education enrichment and community development.

Past Islamic Studies Scholarship Recipients

The following people received scholarships:

Sabih Islam Khwaja: Sabih, from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, completed his master’s degree in Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, England. He is an active member of the Muslim community in Northeast Wisconsin and received the Mahmoud Taman Islamic Studies scholarship as an academic student of Islam to continue his studies and community efforts.

May Kosba: May was a graduate student at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, pursuing an M.A. in Islamic Studies.  Since graduating, she has worked to challenge cultural stereotypes pertaining to Islam and women.  She was an Atlas Service Corps Fellow where she served in Washington, D.C. for a year working as a business development coordinator at Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance. She graduated from the Faculty of Commerce, English Department at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt. May has many years of experience working in the nonprofit field including working for human rights and community and youth development organizations in Cairo.  She is also a poet and a writer, having co-authored a book, Hello, It's a Muslim Calling (Saray Publishing, Cairo) that seeks to challenge stereotypes about Muslims.

Tricia Pethic: Tricia is a Muslim chaplain with experience in correctional and university settings. She served as social media coordinator for Hartford Seminary and the Association of Campus Muslim Chaplains. She writes for various media outlets and currently is the principal at a masjid development consulting service.

Jarrod Long: Also known as Ibrahim J. Long, Jarrod is an American Muslim chaplain with experience providing care in correctional, educational, and healthcare facilities. Jarrod received his B.A. in Humanities and Religious Studies from California State University, Sacramento. He completed an M.A. in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations and a Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy from the Hartford Seminary. Currently, Jarrod serves the patients, family members, and staff of St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario.

Maggie Mitchell Siddiqi: Maggie was a graduate student at Hartford Seminary, who completed an M.A. in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations and a Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy. She previously served for three years as program coordinator at the Islamic Society of North America’s Office for Interfaith and Community Alliances in Washington, D.C., where she oversaw implementation of interfaith dialogue and community outreach programs and conducted outreach to government officials and stakeholders on issues of social justice. Maggie is a 2012-2013 fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, and has previous experience in government consulting, community organizing for the Obama campaign, and legislative work in the Office of U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. Maggie has a B.A. in religion from Wesleyan University and is proficient in Spanish and German.

Erol Sinan: Erol was a graduate student at New York University, studying Islamic law and society.  His area of focus is the formative period of the Islamic legal tradition. He plans to serve the Muslim community by striving to acquire and impart knowledge throughout his career.

Rasha Azoni: Rasha was a student at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, studying Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations. She plans to serve the Muslim community by using her education to become a scholar-teacher-activist who can contribute to the empowerment of Muslims women as a means of achieving peace and justice for all people.

Heba Youssef: Heba was a student at Hartford Seminary, receiving a M.A. in Christian- Muslim relations and a Graduate Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy. She plans to serve the Muslim community in the capacity of a Muslim chaplain, and is currently interning as the first ever Muslim chaplain at Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Ebadur Rahman: Ebadur memorized the Qur'an at the age of 15. He studied for four years in the pilot seminary program at the Zaytuna Institute in the San Francisco Bay Area. He completed an undergraduate degree from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. His concentration at Gallatin involves using history and sociology to look at challenges facing the contemporary Muslim American community. He served as a teacher's assistant at the Zaytuna Summer Arabic Intensive from 2008-2010 and serves as an instructor at the Muslim Education and Converts Center of America (MECCA).

Matthew Ingalls: Matthew is Assistant Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion at University of Puget Sound where he teaches: Introduction to Islam, Islam in America, Sharia Law, Law and Religion, Jihad and Islamic Fundamentalism, Religion and Rhetoric, and Sufism. Matthew received his PhD from the Islamic Studies Program at Yale University. He has written many books and articles including; Egypt and Islam: A History published in 2016 (Princeton University with co-author Clark Lombardi). His articles have appeared in the New York Times.

Imtiaz Uddin Uzair: Imtiaz studied at St. John's University and Hartford Seminary. He also has a law degree.

Past Programs

Since 2009, the Mahmoud S Taman Trust, through the Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin, has provided financial support to community organizations in the Chippewa Valley, the United States, and internationally.

Past Programs

The following organizations received funding:

Chippewa Valley and Northwestern Wisconsin:

Sojourner House-Catholic Charities: to support the opening of a homeless shelter in Eau Claire, WI

JONAH / Eau Claire County Jail: to provide books for the Stop and Think program which works to successfully transition inmates back into their communities

Chippewa Valley Book Festival-Eau Claire Regional Arts Center: to support the 13th Annual Chippewa Valley Book Festival

Chippewa Valley Post: for the start-up support of this online community publication

Barron Islamic Center: to fund the mosque in Barron, WI

Around the United States:

The Medina Clinic, Inc.: to support the free medical clinic in Grandview, Missouri

The Egypt Conference Inc.: for the conference on post-revolution Egypt in Washington, DC in 2011

African American Holiday Association: to help fund a documentary on African American Muslim Women directed by Zarinah Shakir.


Hope and Future Society of the Village of Shubra Bas: to fund an adult literacy program in Shebeen ElKom, Mounifiya, Egypt

Islamisk-Kristent Studicenter: to fund humanitarian efforts which worked to provide medical aid to Syrians

Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt of the Egyptian Orthodox Church: for medical needs of Egyptians during the revolutionary protests of 2011

Arab Medical Union: for medical needs of Egyptians during the revolutionary protests of 2011