Last year, at a ‘creative marathon’ called Hack the Camp, aimed at finding solutions to the challenges faced by refugees in Greece, a young woman spoke passionately of her desire to continue her university education. She had been a student of Economics at a university in Damascus, but her studies had been abandoned as she fled the war. Her emotional plea was the inspiration for the program “Education Unites: From Camp to Campus”, that will provide higher education scholarships to 100 eligible refugees in Athens and 100 in Thessaloniki.
The program is a collaboration between the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Anatolia College (The American College of Thessaloniki), Deree (The American College of Greece) and Perrotis College (American Farm School).
Lucy Kanatsoulis, Dean of Enrollment and International Students at Deree – The American College of Greece, declared: “I can think of no better title for the recently launched scholarship program organized by the U.S. EMBASSY in Athens in collaboration with the American College of Thessaloniki – Anatolia College, Deree – The American College of Greece and Perrotis College – American Farm School.
Once refugees and asylum seekers enter the classroom, they become students – like all their classmates from Greece and other parts of the world – with hope for a future filled with opportunities…Education unites all students in their quest for knowledge to achieve their goals in life. And just like that their differences fade and they are all students first.
The refugee crisis in Greece has become one of integration: Providing them with knowledge and skills which they can use either in Greece or in any other country they move to in the future to help them get out of the camps and start working, thus becoming a contributing member of society. There is hope for this program to form a blueprint to be used across many countries who are committed to offering a permanent solution to the refugee crisis, making the campus the vehicle for humanity.
As a young Syrian wrote in his application: “… the thought that I will have the opportunity to study, and do what I do best, has already put a smile on my face.”
After reviewing over 400 applications and interviewing dozens of refugees and asylum seekers, the three U.S. affiliated colleges have selected the first group of students, who have now begun their academic studies.
Classes have started for the young Afghan man who dreams of becoming a pilot; the young lady from Pakistan who wants to become an electrical engineer; the Syrian law student from Aleppo who left her studies unfinished, and the Syrian man who wants to pursue economic and entrepreneurship studies – as well as dozens of other young students who can now aspire to a professional career, a better future, and the possibility of making an essential contribution to any community where they settle.
During the first week of October, seventy eight young refugees started their academic studies at Deree, and in November they celebrated at their college with an emotional Thanksgiving party.
Note: You’ve already met Lucy – she did the Monthly Interview in August 2016.