John Bozick – July 28, 2017
(AGIA PARASKEVI, GREECE) — It was his last trip abroad – November 15, 2016 – just two months before he would turn over the reins of power to the next president seen by many as anti-immigrant. As President Obama stood before a packed crowd at Athens’ Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, he commended Greece, saying “nowhere have we seen compassion (for refugees) more evident than here in Greece.”
In his remarks that night, Obama maintained “Greece cannot be expected to bear the bulk of the burden alone” and that “all of us must contribute to alleviating suffering and dealing with migration.” What few knew is that while Obama was touring in Greece, his administration was busy putting his words into action.
Greek officials learned the next day that the US administration had committed funds to provide education for 100 displaced migrants at three American-Greek universities. The total grant offered by the United States to all three universities was around $700,000. The program was to be carried out by the State Department working through the U.S. embassy in Athens.
The program, dubbed “Education Unites”, split the funds between the American College of Greece in Athens, the American College of Thessaloniki, and Perrotis College at the American Farm school.
The three colleges have been working feverishly since receiving word of the grant to put their programs in place.
“The main aim of the project is to help refugees gain access to new skills and education that will help to better integrate them in society,” said Lucy Kanatsoulis, the Dean of Enrollment and International Studies at the American College of Greece.
Once the 100 migrant students are identified, they will be integrated into a American college experience.
Students will participate in workshops provided by the Student Services Office where they will learn the basics of going to an American or a European University. The goal of this is to help better integrate them into the lifestyle of a college campus.
Students will be taught English, and will be eligible to take up to two college level courses at any of the three universities. The program will be co-funded using money from both the university’s financial aid and the U.S. embassy to provide everything from books, on campus living, and meals for the students in the program.
They will also work with the student affairs office in order learn the basics of the professional world such as making a LinkedIn account, developing a professional portfolio, and thinking about the steps needed to further their education.
“Education is seen as a critical piece of integration and whether that integration is here in Greece or elsewhere in Europe, education for kids this age is very critical and that’s part of the vision for this program,” said ‘Education Unites’ admissions consultant, Kathleen Macdonald.
“We’re looking at this as sort of a pilot program, we don’t know of any other universities that offer programs quite like this.”
The overall goals of this program are to educate refugees through the program so that they are more capable of securing a job. According to Macdonald these are the biggest factors in integrating students into society.
Macdonald is convinced that even if US dollars are withdrawn from the program under President Trump’s administration, the colleges, along with help from non-profits and the EU, would be able to run a similar program in years to come.
Students enrolled at the American College of Greece will be eligible to choose from a wide array of courses, such as fundamentals of academic English, survey of western civilization, mathematics for liberal arts, and many others.
The American College of Thessaloniki students will only offer two classes that students will be able to take the “information literacy class” and an English lab. However, the American Farm college offers a much broader variety with classes such as agricultural economics, Information technology, Chemistry, among others.