Beginning in 1995, while the war in Bosnia was in full swing, we began to bring students whose educations had been terminated by the fighting to study at Rutgers. Called the Bosnian Student Project, over a period of years sixteen students earned bachelor’s degrees, and one young woman came with a master’s degree from University of Zagreb and earned her doctorate here. Several of the sixteen went on to earn graduate degrees, some with Project support.
All have succeeded in this country. Many have married, including two marriages of Project graduates to one another, and there are children, some of whom are here today. Not all the students were Bosnian. Some are from Serbia. One is a Bosnian Serb from a predominantly Muslim town while another is Croatian. There is even one not from the former Yugoslavia; she is from Albania who came here seeking and successfully gained political asylum in this country. There has never been even a hint of ethnic antagonism within the Project.
The university supplied the tuition. The Project raised all other costs, which exceeded the tuition. These included room and board in the dorms, clothes, books, and everything needed to sustain the students. Members of the congregation also served as host families so the students would have somewhere to live when the university was closed. Other members provided internships, old cars and many other forms of support.
We no longer bring in students from the former Yugoslavia, as students from there are no longer fleeing war and political persecution. We did help a young man from Rwanda whose mother died in the genocide there, and we aided a young woman from Beirut who was in danger from thugs.
There is no lack of refugees whose children were precluded from college in their home countries and who do not have the resources to finance college here. InterfaithRISE, a regional coalition of community- and faith-based groups of which this congregation is a partner, recently brought a family from Afghanistan to our attention. The son began his undergraduate education at Rutgers in the fall of 2018. We are helping him.
Renewed with new life, the newly renamed Refugee Student Project, holds the same financial as its former incarnation. The university provides the tuition, while we cover all other costs. It is our hope that other students will follow. We welcome contributions to the RSP from within the congregation and from the wider community.