Boarding Schools Offer Spots to Syrian Refugees


Photo: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed

Syrian refugees crossing the border into Hungary

Boarding schools in the United Kingdom will offer free enrollment to teenage Syrian refugees.

This idea started when Fran D’Alcorn, head of Saint Felix School, challenged other independent boarding schools in the UK to offer two free spots to orphaned teenage refugees.

The Boarding School’s Association of the United Kingdom supports this idea. Their website states, “Our boarding communities can provide a safe haven in which the refugees can have access to a strong network of pastoral support and structure including counsellors while continuing their education.”

Eighteen percent of Williston students are international, but the school has never enrolled a refugee, and only one student from Syria has attended.

The only exception is a student who came after hurricane Katrina. Due to flooding, the student and the student’s family were displaced. The student came to Williston at the start of the school year as a boarder.

Although there have not been any refugees enrolled, students from unstable backgrounds have come to Williston. However, in these cases, they are not orphaned and their parents are looking to find a safer place for them.

Ms. Ann Pickrell, Assistant Head of School, says, “We’ve had students from a couple of different places in Africa, and I don’t think you would compare it as to something like Syria right now, but Somalia is someplace where we’ve had some students come from when there were some difficulties in Somalia.”

Giving free enrollment to Syrian refugees is a new idea, and the logistics are uncertain.

Ms. Pickrell says, “Because boarding schools in New England haven’t been faced with this issue, it is not something everybody has really completely thought through”

Another issue is financial aid. There are seventy different named scholarships for financial aid, including ones for international students. However, there are none for refugee students.

In terms of money, Ms. Pickrell notes that it is possible for an alum to sponsor a student and give them financial aid. She says, “We have had some situations like that in the past.”

The Political Awareness Club, or PAC, wants to help the Syrian refugees and is trying to create a scholarship program for one male and one female Syrian refugee. There is a petition and the club is hoping to collect signatures at the next meeting.

Wiley Jung ’17, President of PAC, notes, “These people need a place to go and we have a place. Taking two refugees won’t so much alleviate the crisis, but rather demonstrate the solution to the crisis, that everyone needs to do their small share as a citizen of the world.”

PAC hopes to set an example and challenge other schools to help. The petition states, “This act of civic duty will not end or even greatly impact the crisis as a whole, but rather make the point that every country, business, and person must do their share.”

Sophomore Class President Caroline Channell is enthusiastic about the idea of a Syrian refugee coming to Williston. She notes, “I think it would be a great opportunity for anyone to be able to come to boarding school, but having someone from a completely different world that we live in becomes a great opportunity for everyone”

Channell believes it would benefit the refugee student as well as the Williston community.

“Not everyone understands our community and maybe we do not necessarily comprehend the world that people from war-torn areas live in. However, with unknown perspectives and new ideas everyone benefits”

Because of the overload of Syrian refugees, United Kingdom boarding schools have offered free enrollment. Boarding schools in the United States have not yet been faced with this issue, but students at Williston would be enthusiastic to have a Syrian refugee in their community.