I learned of the Rogozin School through a bit of research and Yossi Vardi, an Israeli serial entrepreneur. Located in a dilapidated neighborhood in South Tel Aviv, I was fortunate to visit the school last week, which takes in children from all over the world.
Rogozin gets support from various sources, including the Jewish Federation of greater Los Angeles. Among their numerous efforts, the school is helping Darfur refugees escape genocide and start anew in Israel. Some of these children have never received formal education and have lost their parents.
While we didn’t have a lot of time with the children, I was able to talk to a couple of classroom instructors who told me a bit about the “day in the life of….” “Many fled from Darfur to Egypt and then to Israel,” says a ten year old Darfur refugee survivor.
Math and Hebrew are obviously part of the curriculum. Thankfully, so is artistic expression. I’m a huge believer in art therapy, particularly for those who have gone through trauma in their life, like every child refugee who has walked through their doors.
Says one of the instructors, “they all find it interesting to meet each other and learn to live side-by-side, to live among each other as one. They have to maneuver within the polarity and those that make them feel alienated and rejected. This is a place where they can come, feel safe and accepted.”
Adds one of the children in a video we saw on-site, “It’s frightening to wake up every morning and wonder what will become of us.” One girl had always wanted to learn to dance, but she was “ashamed and afraid.”
They have children from 29 countries, some of them smuggled across the border. UnVC start-up founder Avi Segal is also involved with the school. Avi works ways to support children on an ongoing basis, as well as start-ups who need mentoring.
Avi says, “we are looking for ways and programming languages that make it really easy for young people to get into computers. The key here is to bring the same energy from our start-ups to young people. Giving back to the community empowers us, particularly when we work with children.”
Yossi pipes in, “There are seven different populations in the school — 726 students from age 5 to age 18. 65% of these kids come from single parent homes. Most of these kids don’t have a male figure in their lives.
Yossi also talked about the importance of self esteem which is a key part of the program. “If they don’t have self esteem, you can’t sell them dreams.”
Cisco opened up a Cisco Academy, which teaches 10-12 year old kids network management, technical support and quality software control. After completion, the children receive certification. Six mothers have also graduated from countries as diverse as China, Congo, Phillipines and Nigeria and can now get jobs as technical support representatives. Additionally, scholastic improvement has gone up by 50%.
This school is not a school of any group or ideology and they support a “no child left behind policy.” It’s just a neighborhood school that happened to be in a poor neighborhood of Tel Aviv, yet today, it is a school of great dreams.
Apparently the city wanted to close the school three years ago. Thankfully, today the school is still ticking and miracles continue to happen between its four walls.