March 11th, 2014  |  School Choice, Students & Alumni

Opening Opportunities For the Oppressed

This year, 15 Burmese refugees and current Clarkston residents are receiving an excellent education using Georgia Tax Credit Scholarships from Arete Scholars Fund. The scholarships are delivering hope and opportunity to children who have suffered unthinkable atrocities.

The stories are almost unimaginable   ̶ intense government persecution, hunger, disease, separation from family, and secret escapes through jungles. The 15 Burmese refugee students each have uniquely compelling stories of flight and rescue, but all share a common bond as Clarkston residents and recipients of scholarships from Arete Scholars Fund. Collectively, theirs is a story of hope.

While settling in the United States has meant relative safety and new opportunity for thousands of Atlanta-area refugees, many remain in need of a quality education and basic necessities. In addition, gang violence, poverty, and the threat of human trafficking daily confront our new neighbors. Local schools and public programs have simply been unable to address all the unique challenges and learning needs of large numbers of children.

Georgia tax credit scholarships from Arete Scholars have enabled refugee families to access those private schools of excellence that have resources dedicated to serving the refugee community. Arete Scholars Fund provides 15 Burmese children with the opportunity to learn in a safe, nurturing environment at Duluth Adventist Christian School and Atlanta Adventist Academy in Gwinnett. The second-year Arete Scholars all come from hard-working families striving to make ends meet, many working multiple jobs to improve the outlook for their children.

"This program has literally altered the future for these kids," says Kelli Czaykowsky, Home & School Leader at Duluth Adventist, and co-founder of F.R.E.E., a nonprofit that provides educational and basic needs assistance to the refugee community of Clarkston. "They've gone through so much and still have such joy and faith. We're grateful for the part Arete has played."

Eighteen-year-old Jasmine recently graduated from Atlanta Adventist and hopes to attend nursing school and return to Thailand to serve other Burmese refugees.

To read more about the stories of these children, check out the latest issue of Adventist World magazine online.