featured in the April 14 edition of SYA Now

April 14, 2020

Dear SYA family,

My thoughts are with you and your loved ones, as extended members of the SYA family, as we get through this difficult time. I have been so encouraged by the stories of how our community has stepped up in truly inspiring ways through frontline support, volunteering time and talents, or pivoting business models to lend a helping hand during this crisis. Thank you for all you are doing to help your communities and beyond.

It is in these times that I am reminded of the spirit behind every SYAer: alum, parent and faculty member. Your belief in SYA’s mission is integral to empathy and compassion, to understanding differences in languages, cultures and peoples. This pandemic proves that an SYA education matters. 

As you can imagine, campuses abroad are quiet. Much like the neighborhoods here in the U.S., our faculty, host families and friends abroad are at home. And much like students here in the U.S., our schools had to pivot quickly to online learning. But unlike schools in the U.S., that transition had to happen across an ocean, spanning time zones and vast physical difference. That transition required rushed goodbyes with host families and teachers on another continent with no sense of timeline for return. Students embraced their friends and took rushed group photos to mark their last hours together abroad. You know from your SYA experience how hard that must have been. Students have handled it all with incredible resilience.

And our faculty are resilient, too. They played a critical role in helping to get our students safely back to their homes in the U.S., then swiftly adapted our intentional, place-based curriculum into carefully prepared distance learning so that they could remain connected to students from afar. And our students have risen to meet this challenge. The full richness of the SYA experience is already being appreciated in a new light.

Thank you to all who have checked in and offered to help. Like many schools and nonprofits right now, our focus has turned to helping the most vulnerable within our community. We proactively took steps to reduce the stress on our current families by paying for our students’ travel home, and reducing tuition for the remainder of the year. Our teachers will continue to be paid their full salaries as they work from afar. Our staff in the U.S. are safely keeping operations going from their homes. And while we are optimistic about next year, there is much that remains uncertain.

We all can see ways in which SYA’s mission is as important as ever. If you’d like to help, your financial support of the SYA Fund would go a long way this year. We made some decisions that will be expensive, but we are committed to keeping SYA as whole as possible in the midst of the uncertainty.

There will be opportunities to get involved in the coming days, including on Wednesday, April 22, on One Day for You, and I encourage you to do so in whatever way you are able.

Thank you again, and I look forward to seeing you online.


Tom Hassan
SYA President