LOS OLIVOS, Calif. – A private boarding school in Los Olivos is launching an emergency Ukraine Student Scholarship Fund to help bring in and keep students who were displaced by the Russian invasion in Ukraine.
Dunn School is a boarding school nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley that serves grades 6-12.
Zlata Mitchell, a Dunn School student, came to the United States from Ukraine to go to attend Dunn in the fall of 2021, according to Dunn School spokesman Joshua Scroggin.
Mitchell's mother, Ukrainian journalist Olia Freimut, originally had doubts about sending her daughter overseas for school, but weeks into the bloody Russian invasion of her home country, Freimut said she is thankful she made the decision.
“I wasn’t sure about my daughter going so far away,” Freimut said.
“When she was only 14, she applied to Dunn School. I wanted her to be in Ukraine with me, but I think we are blessed by God because, right now, she’s not struggling. She has food, she has friends, she has community, teachers, the best professionals around her, and for me, right now, I’m so happy she is in a safe place.”
Recognizing that Mitchell's situation is "nowhere near true" for many Ukrainians who remain in the country, Dunn School is establishing the Emergency Ukrainian Student Scholarship.
The scholarship would support current students from Ukraine and aims to bring additional displaced Ukrainian students to the U.S. to attend school at Dunn, Scroggin said.
Many Ukrainians who remain in the country have been sheltering in underground bunkers with food and water supply dwindling, Mitchell said, and for the estimated 2 million who have escaped Ukraine, many have given up everything except the clothes they were able to carry.
“Every single morning I look up, and I look at the news, then I start calling everybody I love,” she said.
“My father, it’s my mother, it’s my brother … my friends. My best friend, she’s still in Kyiv. … Every time, I’m looking at the phone saying ‘please answer, please answer,’ and if they’re not answering, I’m just losing my mind, because they are in shelters underground for a lot of days with small kids and no food.”
The initial goal of the scholarship fund is to raise $240,000, which would cover three full international scholarships specifically for students from Ukraine to attend Dunn for a full academic year, Scroggin said.
The scholarship would include tuition, room and boarding, school supplies, living expensive, and homestay supprot during school breaks, he added.
“It wasn’t a question whether we would do everything we could to support Zlata and continue her education here at home,” said Kalyan Balaven, the Head of School at Dunn.
“The question was what were we prepared to do to help Ukrainian students whose learning had come to a halt during this tragic time. The answer is in the strength of our community rallying together to help as many students as possible continue their education.”
All of the dollars raised will go dirctly toward educating Ukrainian students displaced by the way, Scroggin said.