Monday, March 31, 2008

Vermont College Helps Refugees

In an era of anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, a good story comes along occasionally. Lisa Rathke writes for the Associated Press:

When his family landed in Vermont three years ago, Rwandan refugee Jean-Luc Dushime didn't speak English.

more stories like thisNow, he's in college -- on a full scholarship -- and has his sights set on graduate school.

"Champlain College was the only school that gave me a full scholarship and was the only school interested to know me as a person," the 27-year-old sophomore said.

Moved by a documentary on refugees who fled to the United States, college President David Finney established the scholarship program to help them get a start in their new life without having to worry about the $24,000 annual tuition. College officials say it's the only program of its kind in the nation.

"Given what they faced when they arrived, which is basically about eight months of support and a handshake, and the tremendous difficulties that I realized they must be experiencing and acculturating to a society in some ways couldn't be more foreign, I thought that Champlain could play a role," Finney said.

In its first year in 2006, the New American Student Scholarship program helped 13 students. Now, about 16 students -- from Vietnam, Bosnia and Sudan, among other places -- receive a range of scholarships based on need.

But the small private college benefits, too, with the refugees enriching the school. Click here for the full story.


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