At the Balkhi Foundation, we understand that education is essential to creating a phenomenal tomorrow. From building schools in underserved communities to providing mentorship and funding technology training and scholarships, our goal is to facilitate achievers to educational heights that would otherwise be out of reach. We know that a child’s talent is more often bounded by circumstance than ability and endeavor to put educational excellence within reach for the students fighting the hardest to attain it.
Despite being born an ocean away from each other, our family came together thanks to the promise of a good education and a successful tomorrow. Syed was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, where his entrepreneurial spirit was born. Amanda was born in south Florida where she developed a deep commitment to helping children. When the pair met in high school, it was clear that they were destined for a bright future.
After completing college at the University of Florida, Syed continued to grow his already successful business while Amanda completed her doctorate in Psychology. After returning home to south Florida and welcoming their son Solomon, Syed and Amanda began the Balkhi Foundation with the mission to ensure that new generations of students have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Syed Balkhi – Board Chair Syed is an award winning entrepreneur who has been recognized as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under the age of 30 by the United Nations. With a portfolio of online properties aimed at helping small businesses grow and compete with the big guys, including the largest free WordPress resource site, WPBeginner, Syed has a passion for using technology to level the playing field for those who are destined for success. His collection of small business products, including OptinMonster, WPForms, MonsterInsights, and SeedProd currently empower over eight million websites to increase their traffic, email subscribers, and revenue.
Syed started his first business at age seven, selling holiday greeting cards near his childhood home in Karachi, Pakistan. When he expanded operations to selling snacks and drinks to neighborhood children, it was clear that he was an entrepreneur searching for opportunities. At 12 years old, his family immigrated to the United States and Syed faced the unique challenge of being both substantially younger than his high school classmates and trying to learn English at the same time. The frustrations of this led him to use his free time to build web proxies and arcade sites which catapulted him into the world of web directories and web development that would eventually lead to his current success.
It was Syed’s determination to educate himself that led to his success. It is this determination despite adversity that Syed wishes to celebrate with the Balkhi Foundation. By making quality education attainable for underprivileged students, funding advanced technology training for students who are self taught, and providing mentorship to students who display promise despite adversity, Syed hopes to leverage his unique experience to make a difference for the students of today.
Syed has had the privilege of being honored by the University of Florida as an Outstanding Young Alumni, as well as, a three time recipient of the Gator 100 award for rapid business growth. Syed has been honored by the United Nations as one of the top entrepreneurs under age 35 and has received the Safeer E Pakistan award for technology. Syed has also been inducted into the Cricket Hall of Fame in 2017 for his impact in bringing cricket to the United States.
Amanda Balkhi, Ph.D. – Board Member and Director Amanda is a passionate advocate for child health and wellbeing and is the current director of the Balkhi Foundation. Amanda’s previous scientific publications focus on improving and disseminating effective interventions for the health of children with significant illnesses and their families. During her time at the University of Florida, Amanda led the first study to assess the impact that parents’ online health information seeking has on children with Type 1 Diabetes which provided key insights into the impact that online relationships have on real world caretaking. She also worked with the University of Florida Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Program to codify the Progressive Cascading Model of therapist training thus disseminating a highly effective and scalable model of training for the treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Amanda was born and raised in south Florida and this connection makes her especially proud to be able to bring mentorship and funding to the talented students here. Thanks to extraordinary teachers and mentors, Amanda was able to compete in national robotics competitions against university students and travel the state to compete in french and health science competitions despite being enrolled in an underfunded Title I school. With the support of educators, families, and students, it is Amanda’s goal to bring these opportunities within reach of the talented students throughout Florida that are striving for success. It is her hope to use the lessons learned in academia to partner with schools and students in similar positions to build a culture of mentorship and collaboration that facilitates student success for years to come.
Asia Khatoon – Board Member As a mother, Asia knows the impact that family support can have on building pathways to a student’s success. Educated as a teacher in Karachi, Asia has lived her life with the goal of helping her children reach new heights while maintaining ties to the family and community. While at times this meant assigning her children extra homework to do after school lessons or working with instructors to make sure her children were doing their best, she never thought twice about doing what was right to give her children the best chance to excel.
When she immigrated to the United States with three young children, she came to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of the profound impact parents have on building the love of learning that students rely on for years to come. Despite having a significant language barrier, Asia was committed to her children’s success and served as an advocate for their pursuit of knowledge. Her dedication to community persisted as well, whether it was patiently teaching other children to read Arabic or extending her hospitality to others in need, Asia was determined to be a support to those around her. Now as a parent of four children and a grandmother, it is Asia’s commitment to bring her wisdom and experience working with children to the Balkhi Foundation by making the opportunities her children had available to talented students in need.
Shahid Ahmed – Board Member Shahid Ahmed immigrated to USA in 1976 as a graduate student. After finishing his education he taught at various schools and colleges (Lame Dear Public School, Hardin High School, Dull Knife Memorial College, Little Big Horn College) in Montana. He moved to Washington state in 1989 to be a teacher at Central Kitsap High school and taught mathematics. He also was an adjunct mathematics professor at Olympic College in Bremerton WA before retiring to Florida with his wife in 2014. Prior to his retirement, Mr. Ahmed was Montana Mathematics educator of the year in 1987 and a presidential award nominee for Washington state Mathematics and Science educator of the year in 2012.
Mr. Ahmed has had the privilege of working with students from a wide range of backgrounds, including his initial teaching in his home country of Pakistan at Gomal University in a northern city D. I. Khan. In the United States, he has taught within the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, to his most recent college and high school service in suburban Washington state. During his career, he was actively involved in promoting mathematics education and continues to serve as an active participant of Educational Testing Services AP Calculus program. Mr. Ahmed knows that access to affordable education can be the catalyst for success among hard working and talented students and it is his goal to see more outstanding students achieve their dreams with the Balkhi Foundation.