A trend started developing in the summer of 2022: Ukrainian families, recently forced from their homes in Ukraine because of war, wanted to enroll their children at Auburn Adventist Academy.
Versaviya, AAA junior, reached out to Gina Hubin, director of recruiting and admissions, and accompanied the students and their families to translate for them and introduce them to their potential new home.
She continues to help her seven — and counting — new friends navigate through their new surroundings. Her brother, Philip, and their friend, Rishat, also stepped in as student mentors to form a supportive community of friends.
These new friends are Illia, Davyd, Daniel, Violetta, Vlad, Oleksii and Vlad. These Adventist young men and young woman have seen the horrors of war. They have been forced to quickly leave their homes, friends and family without a proper goodbye to come to a new country and school.
Oleksii appreciates how kind and welcoming everyone is. Davyd is living with his grandparents, whom he hasn’t seen in eight years, and misses his family back home. Siblings Violetta and Vlad, "the original" as he jokes, are worried about their grandparents who are still in Ukraine. Illia and “the new” Vlad just recently arrived.
Their stories, shared in a mix of English, Ukrainian and Russian languages, are fraught with sadness and knowledge that the country they love — the country they grew up in — will never be the same. Yet, in all of these students is a strong faith in God and an ability to see beyond the terrible things that are happening and look to Jesus for comfort and hope.
“We didn’t lose parents. We didn’t face down tanks. We are here. For all we’ve gone through, we are blessed,” said Daniel. “In hard times, you reevaluate your priorities.”
“They are showing Jesus in their attitudes and their day-to-day interactions,” said Kellie Nunley, director of development. “They may be here to learn from us, but we are learning just as much, if not more, from them about faith and resilience.”
AAA has a variety of scholarships, but none marked specifically for refugee students until now. Staff reached out and secured a $25,000 matching grant from a foundation. Donors worked through November to meet the fundraising challenge.
Additional funding for educational expenses is coming from North Pacific Union Conference and Washington Conference, who are both contributing per student. AAA appreciates the support they continue to receive for these students.
“They love God and believe He has a plan for them,” Nunley said. “They have found a safe haven as students at Auburn Adventist Academy where they can thrive.”