By Bob Allen and Thanh Nguyen
Editor’s note: The following is an open letter addressed to the region’s future Syrian neighbors written by Bob Allen, president of Green Mountain College in Poultney, and GMC student Thanh Nguyen who was born in Moscow, Russia, and lived most of her life in Hanoi, Vietnam. International students at GMC come from 19 different countries.
On behalf of the students, faculty and staff of Green Mountain College, we wish to welcome you, our future Syrian neighbors, in advance of your arrival to our beautiful Green Mountain State. We look forward to the opportunity to greet you in Rutland and on our campus later this year.
The college community stands ready to help you settle into your new life, healing the wounds of war and moving toward a future of hope and joy.
Vermont has a long history of being a safe place for people from other parts of the United States and from countries around the world. Our state has a fierce streak of independence that dates back to the 18th century. For 14 years, starting in 1777, Vermont remained an independent republic until it opted for statehood in 1791. The motto emblazoned on our state flag is “Freedom and Unity.” Even though these ideals seem to be conflicting, Vermonters would argue that the two work hand-in-hand in support of democratic values. It can be messy at times, but it has served our citizens well for more than 200 years.
We hope that you will soon find yourself engaged in your transition to this new community. As future generations of Syrians grow up in this land, they will have the opportunities to build a new life with hard work and resiliency.
The town of Poultney has been the home of Green Mountain College since 1834. The college has a nearly 200-year history of serving its students, the community, the state and the world. We prepare young people to take their place in an increasingly diverse and changing world. In 1995, the college committed itself to a liberal arts education and has as its mission a sustainable world, deeply committed to social justice. Environmental and social justice are at the core of everything we teach at the college.
Our commitment to helping with your resettlement in our state is a tangible statement of our mission. Please know that you will be encouraged to join our community in multiple ways. It is our hope that some of you will choose to enroll as students at Green Mountain College. To begin the process, the college is prepared to offer scholarships to two Syrian students beginning as early as January 2017. We wish to nurture young scholars’ educational aspirations on their journey to make a difference in the future. We are also planning a campus symposium in March to proactively address many of your transitional challenges.
We could never fully understand how difficult it is to leave your beloved homeland and come to a country where the language, culture, food and religion are unfamiliar. Our intention is to hear your voice and work with you to establish a community with shared values and beliefs. We will do our utmost to make your transition a success.
By Bob Allen and Thanh Nguyen