In just a few weeks, millions of Ukrainian students will be returning to school, but many will not be returning to the schools they attended prior to the Russian invasion. In many cases, families and teachers have fled west to western Ukraine, to other European countries, or even to the US. Some of their schools have been bombed. Others have been effectively taken over by Russian authorities who are imposing unwelcome curricular changes, as one NY Times article has reported. And while the international community has in many ways responded admirably to the crisis, compassion fatigue has begun to impact charitable giving, and countries that have welcomed millions of refugees are now grappling with the realities of long stays. Schools are being stretched beyond their limits, and Ukrainian refugees now face shortages of basic necessities let alone school supplies, insufficient trauma counseling, and in some cases discrimination. The compounding tragedies of the pandemic and now the war have left Ukrainian students with learning loss and mental health issues that overextended schools are ill-equipped to handle.
So what can be done? Given that many Ukrainian students still have access to computers and the internet, online education can provide stability and security for students who may not know where they will be one month to the next. Gravitas has committed to reserving at least ten tuition-free seats for displaced Ukrainian students and is now seeking sponsorships to increase that number to meet the needs of those students who will most benefit from what Gravitas has to offer. As the online extension of The Stony Brook School, a private, American college prep school, Gravitas is best set up to serve ambitious, college-bound 7-12th graders who possess strong English skills. Inquiries and applications from Ukrainian families have been pouring in, with about 20 inquiries and counting.
So far three students have been enrolled, and three sponsorships have been secured from generous donors. We anticipate filling several more seats by the time schoolopens and will continue to enroll more students as we find more sponsors. A father of one of our new students who is working amidst the dangers in Kharkiv to provide for his wife and daughters who are refugees in western Ukraine wrote, “I cannot find enough words to express my gratitude for the generous offer from your school! Our family is so happy! For us this is the true gift from God through you, we really appreciate and thank you.” Another enrolled student wrote “Thank you for your help…you just have made me the happiest student in the world.”
If you would like to recommend a talented Ukrainian student or a student from another country who has been significantly impacted by the war, please send them to our website to fill out an inquiry form. If you would like to contribute to the Ukrainian Student Fund, please visit the SBS Give Now page and specify “Ukrainian Student Fund” in the “Other” field when asked for designation. Every little bit helps us serve these Ukrainian students at this time of immense uncertainty and need.