New College of Florida has formed a partnership with the Daughters for Life Foundation, headed by bestselling author and peace activist Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, to provide college educations to disadvantaged women from the Middle East.
Under terms of an agreement signed May 28 in Toronto and June 4 in Sarasota, the College, the Foundation and community partners agreed to a three-year pilot program that will bring up to 10 women a year to New College and provide them with scholarships covering the full cost of tuition, room and board and other expenses.
“New College has always been about giving students an education that enables them to take a stand and improve their world, and that is precisely aligned with the purpose of the Daughters for Life Foundation,” said Dr. Donal O’Shea, president of New College.
“We are honored to be working with Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the founder of Daughters for Life, who has so eloquently made the case for peace and the education of women as the way to resolve conflict and strengthen the institutions of the nations of the Middle East.”
Dr. Abuelaish was the first Palestinian physician to be granted privileges to work in an Israeli hospital and was known for treating patients from both Gaza and Israel. When three of his daughters were killed by Israeli shelling in 2009, he responded by writing “I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey.”
The book, both an emotional memoir and a powerful call for forgiveness as a catalyst for peace, has been translated into 17 languages. A year later, he created the Daughters for Life Foundation to provide hope and education to women of the Middle East. He has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize., including this year.
Daughters for Life, based in Toronto, Canada, has provided scholarships, fellowships and awards since its inception, and has partnered with Trent University and Tufts University, among others. The pilot program with New College will be the largest partnership in the Foundation’s history.
The program, called the New College – Daughters for Life Community Initiative, developed after talks Dr. Abuelaish gave in Sarasota in February as the guest of the Herman and Sally Boxser Diversity Initiative and Embracing Our Differences. “Dr. Abuelaish witnessed the deaths of his three daughters, yet he continues to call for the people of the region to come together in understanding, respect and peace,” said Dan Boxser, a Longboat Key resident, retired businessman, former Peace Corps volunteer and founder of the Diversity Initiative.
Speaking to the attendees via a video link, Dr. Abuelaish said the New College partnership would benefit the world and the immediate community. “Education is the greatest tool for fighting the injustice in the world,” he said. “These women who will come to New College will be a great asset and you will be proud of them. And they will be proud of you.”
The Hon. Charles E. Williams, Circuit Court Judge of the 12th Circuit of Florida, announced plans for the partnership at New College’s commencement on May 24. Judge Williams seconded Dr. Abuelaish’s beliefs about the partnership.
“We’re hopeful that we all will benefit from this exchange of ideas and expect both the local community and the Daughters for Life students to grow in understanding,” Judge Williams said. “Peace means listening and learning about both sides and each other’s cultures and differences, and we hope that everyone will change and grow in their understanding.”
Boxser and Judge Williams will serve on a steering committee that will organize community support, including identifying host families, developing religious and cultural programs, and building a fundraising effort.
Under the terms of the agreement, New College, the New College Foundation, the Daughters for Life Foundation and community partners commit to tuition waivers, grants and awards to cover all costs of a four-year undergraduate program at New College. The agreement calls for supporting up to 10 students each year; that number may be increased or reduced depending on the level of philanthropic and community support.
Daughters for Life Foundation will identify potential students by early 2014 to meet the March application deadline. The first slate of students, to be known as Daughters for Life Scholars, will be admitted in Fall 2014. They will have to meet all academic requirements of other New College students, including the provision of SAT or ACT scores, and will have to demonstrate proficiency in the English language.
Scholars will participate in the College’s orientation programs and will live on campus with other students. A local Host Committee will help each Scholar adjust to the community and provide housing over school breaks.
President O’Shea met two Daughters for Life Scholars at a recent event in Toronto and came away impressed with their intelligence and resilience. “The extraordinary thing about these women we met is the odds they overcame to get to college, and sort of tradeoffs they had to face,” he said.
O’Shea sees great value in fostering the relationships between the Daughters for Life Scholars, the College’s traditional students and the community. “Not only will this benefit the women we bring here, it will benefit our students from Florida and the United States, who will need to take their place in a multicultural and highly diverse world.”