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Stetson University wants to continue to sponsor Ukrainian students as war rages on

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Photo: Natalia Maria-Gismero
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Ukrainian students Genevia Gayden, Yana Verbova, Veronika Shchur and Yuliia Balan all started school at Stetson last March.

Stetson University has plans to continue to sponsor the Ukrainian students they welcomed to campus last spring when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Stetson University paid the housing, room and board and travel expenses of all four students when they came to Florida last spring.

Now, the Program in Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies wants to raise enough money to sponsor these students through the completion of their degrees.

Professor Elizabeth Plantan says the program has made it possible for these students to continue their studies, which they wouldn’t be able to do safely or at all back home. She said she felt hopeless after the invasion.

“But to figure out what to do about it, something that we could do that was concrete, that would help bring students and give them the opportunity to study safely, has really meant a lot to us to be able to do that," said Plantan. “And to focus our efforts on something that was making a positive impact amidst this horrible war.”

Freshman Genevia Gayden said without the program, they wouldn’t have been able to start college, as internet and electricity aren't reliable right now in Ukraine because of constant drone strikes.

They said the fact they're going to school now, and studying political science is a point of pride and comfort for their family back home.

“My family right now is in Ukraine. They are in Kyiv," said Gayden. "So they live through all of these power outages, drone strikes, and my father has said that, however sad it is, however difficult it is, his only joy right now is that at least his child is safe. At least his child is getting a good education.”

The college has also sponsored a Ukrainian professor who is currently teaching about misinformation in the media at Stetson.

Donations and proceeds from a number of different events on campus this spring will all go toward supporting the program.

Danielle Prieur is a general assignment reporter at WMFE. You can hear her reporting on a daily basis on the station. She also fills-in as a host during the morning and afternoon drive times. Her reporting has been featured on NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and Vox. Danielle is originally from Rochester Hills, Michigan and is a graduate of both the University of Michigan and Northwestern University. In her free time, she enjoys playing her guitar, writing fiction, and cooking.
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