MALA’s Emerging Leaders scholarship program was founded in 2017 with a simple mission: to help a new generation of young leaders access higher education and build community.  In the years since, MALA has proudly awarded dozens of scholarships totaling over $10,000 to emerging leaders from a wide spectrum of cultural, spiritual, and geographic backgrounds.  


Scholarship Awards


This year, MALA’s leadership is proud to revitalize this important program, offering 6 scholarships ranging from $250 to $500 to emerging leaders with a story to tell.  These awards include two first-prize awards of $500 and four runner-up awards of $250.  


The Nooria Rahat Scholarship awards $500 to an applicant who is passionate about and dedicated to education, and opening doors within their own community for people to learn together.  This scholarship honors the legacy of Nooria Rahat, a lifelong educator in in the Afghan city of Kabul where she dedicated over 30 years to educating and improving access to education for Afghan women.  Nooria was known for her fierce tenacity and commitment to her students, and this scholarship honors an applicant with similar conviction and dedication.  


The Haifa Kurdi Scholarship awards $500 to an emerging leader whose story emphasizes the role of family in their personal journey.  This scholarship celebrates the legacy of Haifa Kurdi, a strong and innovative woman who was known for her strong convictions, her competitive spirit,  and her dedication to her family and her community.  Honoring her legacy, this scholarship will be awarded to an applicant who reflects and nurtures these values within their own community.  




MALA is committed to the highest level of diversity, equity, and inclusion in our programs.  Applications for the Emerging Leaders scholarship program are open to individuals of all faiths, cultural backgrounds, gender identities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic brackets who are 18 years or older, and currently attending or committed to attending a higher education institution in the United States.  


Application Criteria and Deadlines


To apply, follow this link to the application form.


Applicants are asked to submit the following:

  • A personal narrative essay responding to one of the prompts below, not to exceed 500 words.  
  • A high resolution photo of the applicant to be published along with the story.
  • Valid mailing address. 
  • Name of the institution the applicant is attending or plans to attend.
  • Basic demographic identifiers 
  • A valid email address


Essay Guidelines and Review Criteria 


Essays submitted for the Emerging Leaders scholarship program should reflect the unique journey and perspective of the applicant in a narrative expository format.  Essays should not exceed 500 words.  

Essays will be judged based on the following criteria:


  • Originality
  • Essay Structure
  • Adherence to Essay Prompt
  • Grammar and Syntax


Emerging Leader Scholarship Essay Prompts 2022


  • What does freedom mean to you?
  1. How would you describe your own identity?  Tell us about how your identity has developed, and what identity means to you.  
  2. Why is cultural heritage important to you?  Talk about your own heritage and how it has influenced your own journey.
  3. What is an event that changed your life forever?  Share an important moment in your life that changed the way you understand the world.  


Publication Disclaimer


MALA is a storytelling organization, and, in support of our mission, we hope to publish and share as many scholarship essays as possible in order to bring attention to the inspiring stories of our applicants with our community.


All stories submitted by applicants through this program may be published or reproduced on MALA’s website, social media platforms, and newsletter.  By applying, applicants give MALA consent to publish their essay, name, and photo freely.  MALA will not distribute any application materials or contact information to third parties; stories will be shared only on MALA’s official platforms.  Please view the application form for a more detailed overview of this policy.  




Applicant grants MALA (Muslim American Leadership Alliance) consent to edit and publish the essay submitted herein on the organization’s website and digital platforms, and consent to reproduce and share the image submitted herein along with the essay.  Contact information gathered through this form is solely for the purpose of contacting applicants about the status of their application, and will not be distributed or reproduced outside of MALA’s secure channels.  All essays are subject to publication at the discretion of MALA (Muslim American Leadership Alliance).  Applicants may request that their story be unpublished from MALA’s platforms by sending an email to