The School for International Training in Brattleboro

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BRATTLEBORO — Up to 100 Afghan refugees will have a place to live and learn during their first 90 days in Vermont before settling into the community as a whole in May.

On Thursday, the Ethiopian Community Development Council announced it had joined with World Learning and the School for International Training to welcome the evacuees through the Afghan Placement and Assistance program.

"This is a happy coincidence of opportunity, needs and values," said Sophia Howlett, president and chief education officer at SIT Graduate Institute.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, SIT and its parent, World Learning, announced it was tweaking its model to allow for more in-field training and less on campus classwork. The result was, she said, lots of students in the summer but a vacant campus during the fall and through the winter. Being able to open the facility for the evacuees is an appropriate use of the campus, she said.

In addition to opening the campus to the evacuees, SIT and World Learning will be providing educational opportunities, including English language classes.

Howlett said former and current faculty are already working with the evacuees.

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"We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get involved," said Howlett.

SIT is already temporary home to 22 evacuees, and more are expected soon.

The Welcoming Communities Program, hosted by the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, will help transition the evacuees from the campus and into the community.

This is the first attempt at partnering an educational institution with refugee resettlement and may serve as a model for other programs around the country.

Howlett said SIT is positioned to offer these services going forward for other refugees and evacuees.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.