Jul 29, 2018

Six Chippewa Valley high school students selected as winners of Taman Foundation’s essay contest

Six Chippewa Valley high school students have been chosen by the Mahmoud S Taman Foundation as the winners of its 2018 essay contest on “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.”

The contest, open to students in grades 9 through 12, sought essays running 1,000 to 1,200 words that focused on global citizenship, civil society and diversity in the context of Chippewa Valley communities.

The winning essays were written by Abagail Opsal, a 2018 graduate of McDonell Central Catholic High School in Chippewa Falls; Megan Hu, a rising senior at Eau Claire Memorial High School; Mingyu (Michael) Liu, a rising junior at Regis High School in Eau Claire; Nati Raehl, a 2018 graduate of Regis; 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.

Dr. Thom Chisholm, a member of the Foundation’s board of directors, said in a press release that “the six student winners represent thoughtful and dedicated youth leaders in our community” and expressed the Foundation’s commendation for their work.

An excerpt from Hu’s essay highlights the essence of the contest, according to the press release:

“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.”

Contest details

The contest drew some 45 entries, which were judged by a panel made up of Foundation board members plus additional members who were added because they are teachers or have experience in judging essays.  Each winning author received a cash prize of $200 or $300.

Students entering the contest were asked to write about one of four general questions, or to combine any of the topics as they wished.  The questions, in slightly abbreviated form, were:

  1. What does racial, gender and cultural diversity mean to you and how does it manifest itself in the Chippewa Valley?
  2. How have contributions of immigrant communities (e.g., Latino, Hmong, Somali, Bosnian) impacted the Chippewa Valley?
  3. How has the Islamic religion integrated itself positively into modern American culture and society? What is the history of the Chippewa Valley Muslim community and how has its presence enriched the local culture? and
  4. How are the goals of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights relevant to your local community, and how can Chippewa Valley high school students work to forward its ideas?

The winning essayists

Hu, a rising senior at Memorial, plays flute in band and orchestra, has acted as a coordinator for Women’s March Wisconsin, and regularly volunteers at the Bolton Refuge House. She said she entered the essay contest because she was excited to see not only acceptance, but also promotion, of diversity, and she welcomed the challenge to write about something she deeply cares about. Hu wrote that 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 currently searching for a field of interest. In her lifetime, she said she hopes to take an active part our communities’ journey to become more diverse, inclusive places.


Nati Raehl

Raehl, a 2018 Regis graduate, said he entered the contest because, as an African-American immigrant, he thought he had something to add to the conversation. He came here from Ethiopia when he was five years old, and wrote that he believes the Chippewa Valley has been a welcoming community. Raehl, whose high school hobbies and activities have included playing football and tennis, plans to study sports management at the University of Minnesota,  He said that in his lifetime, he wishes to find a fulfilling job, raise a family and give back to his community.


Mingyu (Michael) Liu

Liu is a rising junior at Regis whose hobbies are tennis, playing clarinet in band, and participating in mock trial. Liu wrote that he wanted his essay to express his belief in the importance of diversity in today’s world and added that he believes his community is a place where everyone belongs. Liu said he plans to pursue higher education and hopes to make a change in the world for the better.


Abagail Opsal

Opsal is a 2018 McDonell graduate whose hobbies and activities include volleyball, basketball, reading, writing, baking and spending time with friends and family. She said she entered the essay contest because she strongly stands with the Foundation’s mission and believes that people in the Chippewa Valley are always willing to help one another. Opsal plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison to major in biochemistry. She hopes to complete a Ph. D. in pharmacy, and to leave a positive impact on every person she encounters in her life.


Wyatt Eiden

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


Regina Gravrock

Gravrok is a rising senior at Holy Family Home School who won the Lake Hallie Optimists essay contest last February. She plays the piano, competes in speech and takes taekwondo. Her future plans include pursuing a degree in business and finance. Gravrok wrote that she believes diversity is the key to a strong community and the Chippewa Valley showcases this diversity. She said she hopes her life will be full of fulfilling quality relationships.

The Taman Foundation’s mission includes promoting a more racially and ethnically diverse and inclusive environment in the Chippewa Valley.  More information about it is available at  mstamanfoundation.org

Jan 26, 2018

Volume One: Foundation Sponsors Diversity Essay Contest for Teens

An essay contest about equity, diversity, and inclusion will award cash prizes to Chippewa Valley high school students. The Mahmoud S. Taman Foundation recently announced its 2018 essay contest for students in ninth through 12th grades. First- and second-place winners (who will receive $300 and $200, respectively), will be chosen from each of the following schools: Chippewa Falls High School, McDonell Central High School, Memorial High School, North High School, Regis High School, and Altoona High School. One category of entries from students at other area high schools, as well as home-schooled students, will also be awarded first and second prizes. Essays must be 1,000 to 1,200 words long and should address one these questions:

1. What does racial, gender, and cultural diversity mean to you and how does it manifest in your local community in the Chippewa Valley?

2. How have the contributions of immigrant communities such as the Latino, Hmong, Somali, Bosnian, and others impacted the Chippewa Valley?

3. How has the religion of Islam positively integrated itself into modern American culture and society? What is the history of the Muslim community in the Chippewa Valley and how has their presence enriched the local culture?

4. How are the goals of the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations relevant to your local community and how can high school students in the Chippewa Valley work to forward these ideas?

The contest deadline is March 30. The Taman Foundation was formed to honor Mahmoud Taman, a native of Egypt who spent 43 years living and working in the Chippewa Valley. He co-founded the Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin, which operates a mosque in Altoona, and was a leader in local interfaith dialogue. To learn more about the foundation and the contest, visit mstamanfoundation.orgor email MSTamanFoundation@gmail.com.

Photo credit: VolumeOne


Jan 19, 2018

Chippewa Valley Post: Taman Foundation high school contest offers cash prizes for essays focused on equity, diversity and inclusion

JANUARY 16, 2018 BY 

MSTaman-Foundation-logo-300x232.jpgChippewa Valley high school students from Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Altoona and surrounding communities are eligible to compete for cash awards in an essay contest focused on global citizenship, civil society and diversity, according to an announcement from the Mahmoud S. Taman Foundation.

The 2018 contest’s theme is “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” in the context of local communities, in keeping with the foundation’s goal of promoting racial and ethnic diversity and inclusivity in the Chippewa Valley The contest is open to current 9th through 12th graders, and the deadline for submitting completed essays is Mar. 30.

There will be separate contests at each school for Memorial, North and Regis High Schools in Eau Claire; Chippewa Falls and McDonnell High Schools in Chippewa Falls; and Altoona High School. Homeschooled students and those from other high schools in the area are also eligible and will compete in a separate category.

Prizes of $300 for first place and $200 for second place will go the top two essays in each of the seven categories.

The contest requires essays of 1,000 to 1,200 words responding to one of the essay-contest-image-1-236x300.jpgfollowing questions:

1. What does racial, gender, and cultural diversity mean to you and how does it manifest itself in your local Chippewa Valley community?

2. How have the contributions of such immigrant communities as the Latino, Hmong, Somali, Bosnian and others impacted the Chippewa Valley?

3.  How has the religion of Islam positively integrated itself into modern American culture and society? What is the history of the Muslim community in the Chippewa Valley and how has its presence enriched the local culture?

4.  How are the goals of the of the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights (https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html) relevant to your local community and how can high school students in the Chippewa Valley work to forward these ideas?

Additional contest details can be found at www.mstamanfoundation.org. Questions may be sent to MSTamanFoundation@gmail.com.


Dec 22, 2017

The Chippewa Valley Post highlights the Mahmoud S Taman Foundation 2017 grantees

Taman Foundation lists 2017 grants to 10 Chippewa Valley nonprofits

DECEMBER 20, 2017 BY 

Ten Chippewa Valley nonprofit organizations received support in 2017 from the Mahmoud S. Taman Foundation.

The successful proposals fit the foundation’s mission of promoting peace, interfaith efforts and the overall promotion of humane causes and humanity, according to a press release from the organization.


Jeta Lubotoni

An additional award went to Jeta Lubotoni, who received an Islamic Studies scholarship to help support her work toward a master’s degree in Middle East and Islamic Studies at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA.

Her interests include the unique practices of Islam among Albanians (her own heritage) as well as the interactions between religion and culture more broadly. She is passionate about youth access to trustworthy religious counseling and guidance.

Lubotoni, from Springfield, Virginia, completed her undergraduate degree in International Relations at American University in Washington, DC.

Sahar Taman, the foundation’s secretary-treasurer, noted that the organization “strives to contribute to the local community through diverse and sustained philanthropy.”  This, she said, “was a lifelong vision of Dr. Mahmoud Taman, who worked and served as a physician in the Chippewa Valley for more than 40 years.”


Dr. Mahmoud Taman


Sahar Taman

The foundation’s 2017 grant recipients included a religion writers workshop, a local book festival, promotion of breastfeeding, an after-school STEM education initiative, community-based racial diversity training and a local radio program focused on peace, spirituality and activism. Other grants went to help prepare young Muslims to be productive citizens and active community members;  to support UW-EC students in peace and conflict studies; to help lift the voices of the formerly incarcerated; and to help fund a community meal program.

Organizations receiving grants were:

The Boys and Girls Club of Menomonie (https://www.cvclubs.org/menomonie) to support a STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Math) education initiative.

The Chippewa Valley Book Festival (www.cvbookfest.org), which commemorated its 18th anniversary in 2017. The Festival arranges for author readings, book signings, school visits, workshops and programs for writers of all ages.chippewa-Valley-Book-Festival-image-2-300x111.jpg

Chippewa Valley Ex-Prisoners Organizing (CV EXPO), to support its efforts to lift the voices of formerly incarcerated individuals to the forefront of the fight to transform Wisconsin’s criminal justice system; and to guide individuals as they navigate barriers for successful reintegration into the community.

The Chippewa Valley Writers Guild (www.cvwritersguild.org), to support a craft talk earlier this month on how writing can promote interfaith dialogue and strengthen communities.

Circles of Change, UW-Eau Claire(https://marketing.campaigns.uwec.edu/circles-of-change/), an initiative aimed at building and embracing a more racially and ethnically diverse and inclusive environment here. Funding was granted to provide Family Conversation Kits (a selected group of books) at local libraries to help stimulate family discussions about race and ethnicity.

The Community Table (https://thecommunitytable.org/), to support its mission of serving  balanced, nutritious meals in a safe, welcoming environment and to connect those in need with existing resources as well as to enlighten the public on issues of hunger in the Chippewa Valley.

Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin – Center and Mosque(https://altoonamasjid.com/), to support its efforts to prepare young Muslims to be productive citizens and active members of their community.

Northern Spirit RadioNorthern Spirit Radio (https://www.northernspiritradio.org), to assist its longtime flagship programs, Song of the Souland Spirit in Action, in further diversifying their topics and interviewees, including Islam-related programs.

Northwestern Breastfeeding Network (https://themilkmob.org/), to help support a local conference. The Network is a 26-year-old organization of lactation professionals working to improve breastfeeding rates in the Chippewa Valley.

UW-EC Center for Global Politics (https://www.uwec.edu/academics/college-arts-sciences/departments-programs/political-science/about/center-for-global-politics/), to support student-driven research and publication relevant to Islam, multiculturalism, civic duties and peace. The Center will help students present papers at the annual faculty-student conferences  of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies.

The Taman Foundation welcomes submissions of proposals from individuals and organizations for initiatives that align with its vision. Proposals that address the needs and growth of the Chippewa Valley community may be submitted year-round at mstamanfoundation.org


Nov 14, 2017

"6 of Substance" Chippewa Valley Post Highlights The Mahmoud S. Taman Foundation

The "6 of Substance" series is the Chippewa Valley Post's news of area nonprofit organizations in order to increase public awareness of their missions and activities, and to provide information that otherwise might not be made available.

 Mahmoud S. Taman Foundation

Who do you serve?

The Mahmoud S. Taman Foundation’s goal is to serve the Chippewa Valley community, especially youth, as well as community, social service and social justice organizations. We create and support projects and grassroots initiatives that promote interfaith and civic causes whose general nature is the promotion of humanity. Initiatives include interfaith outreach actions (especially those advocating for inclusivity of Islam), civic participation, peace education, humanitarian issues, health promotion (including mental health awareness and advocacy), education and literacy, arts and culture. These efforts can be undertaken by organizations or by individuals who aim to fulfill a need in the targeted community. The Foundation also serves individuals and groups outside the Chippewa Valley – in northern Wisconsin, elsewhere in North America and internationally.

How long have you been established in the Chippewa Valley?

The Foundation was established in 2015. It was a wish of Dr. Mahmoud S. Taman, who lived here and served the Chippewa Valley as a psychiatrist and a Muslim interfaith advocate, to continue to support his community and causes he valued. The Foundation’s three current programs include an essay contest for Chippewa Valley high school students to promote discussion on equity, diversity and inclusion. We also provide community grants to organizations and individuals for efforts that align with our mission. Finally, we award scholarships to Islamic studies students in North American universities.

The Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin – Center and Mosque originally managed the Mahmoud S. Taman Trust which offered some of the programs of the Foundation but on a smaller scale. Visit our website to see some of the past programs.

What are the major issues you will be facing over the next 18 months?

One of our major goals is to stimulate a discussion in the Chippewa Valley about the importance of diversity and inclusion within our community, as well as in the nation. We think that asking youth to learn about those who are different from them will bring people together, whether this involves the white majority population learning about minority populations or minorities studying the vast diversity in the majority. We also wish to support actions that aim to bring about social equity, which includes addressing mental health care, pulling people out of intergenerational poverty and overcoming Islamophobia.

Aside from financial support, how can the Chippewa Valley Community support you?

We hope that our programs will become well known in the Chippewa Valley. We are providing small grants and want the Chippewa Valley to see us as a resource. We hope to engage with the many ongoing initiatives by providing a new perspective.

Who are some of the key people in your organization?

We have a diverse board of directors including friends and colleagues whom Dr. Taman valued, and his three children: Sahar, Mona and Tarik. The president of the Mahmoud S. Taman Foundation is Prof. Ali Abootalebi, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. Originally from Iran, he is a researcher on the Middle East, especially Iran and the Palestinian/Israeli issue, and a social justice commentator and blogger. His vision is for the Foundation to become an integral part of the community. Sahar Taman, Dr. Taman’s older daughter, is secretary-treasurer of the board. She has a background with the federal government and in interfaith dialogue and international exchange. She hopes that the Foundation will honor and promote the many passions of her father. The board also includes Dr. Thom Chisholm, a Chippewa Falls native and an armed services veteran who returned to the area after a distinguished world-wide medical career. He is a co-founder of the Open Door, a free medical facility in Chippewa Falls.

What is the most important thing about your organization that people should know, but don’t?

While the Foundation is still a small organization, we are open and accessible to all ideas from the community. We look forward to hearing new ideas about how we can improve and serve the real needs of the area.


Sep 29, 2017

Eau Claire Leader Telegram Editorial by Foundation Board Member Dr. Thomas Chisholm

Dr. Thom Chisholm's thoughtful article on healthcare was published in the September 28, 2017 Eau Claire Leader Telegram.

It Seems to Me: Repeal measure ill-advised

by Thomas Chisholm

The billionaire in the White House and Congress insist that Obamacare be stricken from memory and replaced with Trumpcare, health care reserved for special American patients.

I was taught, “to be worthy to serve the suffering.” Medicine is a sacred trust, an art, a calling, not a business. “One of the essential qualities of a physician is interest in humanity for the secret in the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.” The current bill advocated by the Republican majority is unworthy, uncaring and inhumane. It is business as usual, partisan and exclusive.

Fortunately, the AMA, the American and Catholic Hospital Associations, The American Medical Students Association and other groups, including AARP, are opposed to the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment to H.R. 1628.

Unlike its rigid opposition to Medicare in 1965, the AMA states this latest effort to repeal or improve the ACA fails the principal of “first do no harm.” It would jeopardize health insurance for tens of millions of Americans and destabilize access to affordable coverage and care.

In his recent letter to Senate leaders, Dr. James Madara, CEO of the AMA, urged Congress to focus on stable premiums, avoid any law that would cause the loss of insurance for those currently covered, those with pre-existing conditions, and continue the parental coverage provision. Dr. Madara insists that Medicaid, CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and other safety-net programs be adequately funded.

His letter reminds the Senate that per-capita caps fail to anticipate costs for medical improvements or the impact of public health epidemics, including opioid abuse. The AMA adds that allowing states to base premiums on health status could make insurance unaffordable and objects to eliminating the ACA’s Prevention and Public Health Fund after 2018.

If the Senate passed the bill before the end of September as the Republicans desired under current rules, the CBO would not have had time to measure the cost or the effects of H.R. 1628 on more than 23 million Americans excluded from health insurance.

Who will care for those millions? There are approximately 1,200 free clinics in the nation, including Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and Menomonie, serving the untouchables — for primary care only. Are we concerned; are we caring for the patient? Is the amendment to H.R. 1638 just?

There is a solution: America Care — financed equitably by taxes rather than premiums only the Brahmins can afford.

Dr. Chisholm, of Chippewa Falls, is a member of Veterans for Peace and the American Medical Association.


May 04, 2017

Mahmoud S Taman Foundation Launches 2018 Programs


Contact: Sahar Taman, MSTamanFoundation@gmail.com

The Mahmoud S Taman Foundation is pleased to announce a series of new programs aimed at promoting peace, interfaith, and civic causes by providing grants to initiatives in the Chippewa Valley of Wisconsin, in the U.S., and around the world.

The programs include:

  1. 2018 Spring essay contest for high school students: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion 
  2. Community Grants Program
  3. Scholarships for students of Islamic studies and related fields

Please review the website for details.