Russell Sage College is partnering with neighboring Hudson Valley Community College to deliver housing, education, and essential support services to assist refugee resettlement after Hudson Valley was awarded a $25,000 “Every Campus A Refuge” (ECAR) grant.

Under the leadership of the Women’s Institute at Russell Sage College and Office of Service Learning, Russell Sage was the first college in New York state to partner with ECAR and receive a grant in 2021, and Hudson Valley is the first SUNY institution to partner with ECAR and receive a program grant. The two colleges will be working with the U.S. Committee for Refugees & Immigrants (USCRI) Albany Office.

Every Campus A Refuge is a higher education initiative founded in September 2015 at Guilford College. Its mission is to make every U.S. college and university a Resettlement Campus which partners with a local refugee resettlement agency to host refugees on campus grounds and supports their successful integration. Since ECAR’s inception, 16 campuses have started their own ECAR Chapters.

ECAR has been recognized by the White House, the United Nations, and with several higher education community engagement awards. In addition to mobilizing universities to support refugee families, ECAR is a member of the U.S. Department of State’s Welcome Corps on Campus consortium and will be supporting private sponsor groups at colleges and universities as they sponsor refugee students.

Dr. Diya Abdo, founder and director of Every Campus A Refuge, served as The Women’s Institute at Russell Sage College’s visiting affiliate scholar last year and helped to further develop the ECAR program at the college. ECAR and The Women’s Institute hosted a certificate-bearing training for potential new chapters in May 2023, and Hudson Valley is the first of the participating institutions to mobilize and become an ECAR chapter. 

Hudson Valley and Russell Sage will support families in the first few months of their resettlement in the area. By providing temporary housing and a wide range of support services, refugee families will have the space and assistance for a softer landing and a stronger beginning in their new communities. Since 2020, Russell Sage has partnered with USCRI to build “Good Neighbor Teams,” organizing groups of faculty, staff, and students to provide direct support to recently arrived refugee families. With the expanding partnerships with Hudson Valley and ECAR, the colleges can help multiple new families in the coming months.

“This past year, a number of refugees resettled by USCRI benefitted from the support of ECAR, specifically, Russell Sage College, and we welcome and look forward to the opportunity to expand our partnership with HVCC,” said Dr. David Sussman, director of USCRI, Albany.

Hudson Valley will provide a program coordinator and offer English as a second language instruction, high school classes and career preparation courses, along with dedicated enrollment advisement, healthcare navigation support, employment advisement, among other services. Russell Sage will offer temporary on-campus housing. Both colleges will deepen partnerships with area refugee resettlement agencies, create student engagement activities and events, and co-sponsor community educational opportunities. 

“Russell Sage College emphasizes its role in building healthier communities, and that mission includes welcoming newcomers to our community, who enhance the cultural landscape and provide us all with a deeper understanding of the world,” said Russell Sage President Christopher Ames. “We are proud to partner with both ECAR and Hudson Valley in this work as it provides our students with opportunities to make a difference and helps them grow as citizens and future professionals.”

“We are so pleased to partner with neighboring Russell Sage College to forge a unique partnership that will help refugee families resettling in the area and to become the first SUNY ECAR chapter,” said Hudson Valley Community College President Roger Ramsammy. “Our goal is to ease the burden of resettlement and assist those in our own community who need essential education, language skills, job training and wraparound services to start building a new life. By collaborating with Russell Sage, we are bringing together the strengths of both colleges and plan to support ECAR families in a way that neither college could independently.” 

“We are delighted that Hudson Valley Community College is joining the growing ECAR network of colleges and universities supporting refugee newcomers to the Capital Region; these institutions, like Russell Sage College and Siena College, are providing their newest community members with a softer landing and a stronger beginning, all while engaging their students in related transformative educational experiences and deepening local community ties,” Abdo said.

“Hudson Valley is also a wonderful example of how community colleges are playing the role of anchor institutions in their cities,” Abdo continued. “And as the first SUNY school to participate in the ECAR program, Hudson Valley will lead the way for many more to follow suit. Very importantly, the partnership between Hudson Valley and Russell Sage College presents a new and innovative model of participating in the ECAR program that brings together a public and a private college and allows an institution without on-campus housing to serve newcomer families in sustained and meaningful ways.”

Catherine Willis, a faculty member at Hudson Valley, will serve as the ECAR coordinator and act as the first line of communication for ECAR families, as well as coordinating with the Russell Sage Women’s Institute Executive Director Shelly Calabrese, and Ali Schaeffing, director of service learning and community engagement. Willis will oversee an ECAR advisory team that includes students, faculty, staff, and community organization representatives to increase support for ECAR, refugee, and new immigrant families in our community.

Several existing college programs will support the refugee families, including Hudson Valley’s Capital District Educational Opportunity Center, which offers education and skills-based training for careers at no cost. The college also offers academic support services, tutoring, mentoring, credit for practical/work experience, a childcare center, counseling and wellness services and a food pantry, which will be available to ECAR families. Universal CDTA ridership is also provided to Hudson Valley and EOC students and will be provided to the families.

The ECAR grant provides supplemental funding for needs not covered by donations, including cell phones, mattresses, and WiFi. Funds are also earmarked for moving expenses and first month’s rent to transition to permanent off-campus housing. Additional resources will be raised through Hudson Valley’s Foundation in conjunction with Russell Sage. 

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