Nina Brekelmans will always be remembered by family and friends as kind-hearted, passionate, intelligent, curious, driven, disciplined, resilient, sincere, approachable, radiant, and culturally sensitive. She was also known for her bright smile, which would light up the room and offered a window into her cheerful, positive personality. She led by example through her tireless dedication to high achievement and community engagement on a global scale.
Nina was born in Gahanna, Ohio on March 6, 1990. She then moved with her family to Louisville, Kentucky where she spent most of her years growing up. Early on in her life, she showed a talent for athletics and languages. As a child, she excelled at soccer and tennis as well as Spanish. Her father Nico was offered an opportunity to work in Querétaro, Mexico during Nina’s last year and a half of high school, and she encouraged the move in order to bring her Spanish to fluency. She continued her passion for studying languages and culture at Dartmouth College, majoring in Arabic. Nina decided to immerse herself in Arabic at Middlebury College’s Arabic language summer program and study abroad program in Alexandria, Egypt. She constantly sought new cultural experiences during her time abroad and easily made friends with locals. She kept up her Arabic upon her return to Dartmouth as a Language Drill Instructor for beginner students.
Nina also used her time as an undergraduate to work on socially responsible professional projects. Some of those included investigating whistleblower claims at the Project on Government Oversight and helping organize a conference connecting homeless shelters across Vermont and New Hampshire at the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.
Nina discovered her love of distance running in college and walked on to the Dartmouth College varsity team. She passed on that passion when she volunteered with Girls On The Run. When Nina moved to Washington, DC for graduate school, she joined the Georgetown Running Club, an elite, post-collegiate training group.
Nina started her Master of Arts in Arab Studies at Georgetown University in 2012. Her interest in spirituality and tolerance for others’ faith was kindled while working at the Muslim Chaplaincy at Georgetown. A year into her Master program, Nina was awarded a David L. Boren Scholarship to study Arabic language and culture as a Harvard University Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) Fellow in Amman, Jordan. While in Jordan, Nina volunteered with Reclaim Childhood, seeking to improve the lives of refugees and young women through athletics. She also worked at the Jordan Health Aid Society coordinating assistance to Syrian refugees. Nina kept up her running regimen while studying abroad and finished first among female participants in the 2014 Dead Sea Ultra Marathon 21km race.
Nina returned to her second year of her Master program with the conviction to make a difference in the female running community in Jordan. She was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to research the experience of female distance runners in Jordan and was preparing to leave shortly after graduation.
As accomplished as Nina was, she was very humble. She willing gave her time to helping others without the expectation of reciprocity. Nina was a role model, even to her peers and superiors. Her spirit will live on in the positive change she inspired in others.