From SYA President Tom Hassan:
Our students abroad this year are demonstrating new levels of empathy as they respond to the crisis in Ukraine. While safely distant from the center of activity, students are feeling the close-to-home nature of this conflict while they are studying in the European Union, and are witnessing the real-life ramifications within their host countries and communities. France, Italy and Spain are all expecting an influx of refugees from Ukraine in the coming days and weeks, and students, faculty and staff are already at work determining the most effective ways they can help those who are displaced.
In the midst of this devastating period in our global history, I hope that you are a heartened, as I am, to read about the meaningful ways in which our SYA students are becoming active, responsible, and empathetic citizens of the world.
In Politics class, students have been studying the situation in Ukraine from the day Putin announced that Russia would recognize the separatist republics of Donbass. Students continue to investigate the Russian attack on Ukraine by discussing together in class the many questions they have. Of particular interest to the group is the positioning of the European Union towards the conflict. Shifting to a unit on Ukraine has been seamless because the students were already in the midst of a module focused on European history. The students, therefore, have solid notions of history and geo-politics.
The political club has been extensively discussing the possible U.S. and EU responses to this war, and the political, social, economic and military implications thereof. One student noted to teacher Pascal Monteville that she was grateful to have the opportunity to engage in these conversations about an issue close to home (in Europe) in real time, implying that she would not have had the same opportunity in the United States.
While the whole class has plans to fundraise, one student, Jack, couldn’t wait to get started.
"Last Saturday, I was fortunate to participate in a Ukraine fundraiser and relief drive organized by Secours Populaire Français. Mutual friends in Benevolat Rennes introduced me to the group. While I was very nervous about being the obvious outlier, everyone was incredibly inviting and welcoming, whether inside my own group or showing support for Ukraine in other ways. Simply involving myself with such an important cause was very gratifying. While awareness is essential for any cause, actively choosing to do something so tangible for the relief effort lends credence to the idea that anyone can do this, that everyone can help."
As the group prepares for a trip to Naples and Pompeii, Resident Director Pat Scanlon made the following reflection, “The recent invasion of Ukraine has made such trips even more meaningful than before. We believe this is a moment to embrace cultural competency as a way of understanding other people from different parts of the world, as is our mission.”
Teachers have spoken with small advisory groups about the invasion and the war with an eye toward education and reason, not alarmism. Students in the Local-Global Perspectives class will go deeper in their next module, exploring various viewpoints to this geopolitical upheaval.
Among SYA Italy students, the sentiment has been one of empathy and action. The cafe on the block near school is owned and operated by Ukrainian nationals, a mother and daughter, who have for the past six years welcomed SYA Italy students as honored guests. In the last week, students have returned the spirit of friendship by donating money, medical supplies and winter clothing so that the cafe’s owners can help fill trucks headed to the Poland-Ukraine border.
In Spain, economics teacher Marimar Orós will be co-teaching a module with colleague Antonio López Piña on the war in Ukraine. Marimar will discuss the use of sanctions and other economic impacts and Antonio will review the geopolitical situation. Students will come to class with questions and will engage in perspective taking by debating the effectiveness of sanctions. They will also consider and discuss whether they believe countries around the world should be doing more to assist Ukraine during this crisis.
In addition, Resident Director Meghan Lewis Roof is working with the student council on a monetary fundraiser to raise at least 500 euros in support of the Homo Faber Association, a small non-profit in Lublin, Poland, which is currently working to support as many refugees as they can.