Home Away from Home

Originally published in the Education 3.0: The Magazine written and produced by the Society for Advancement of Education, Jerusalem and distributed at the SAE’s Education 3.0 Symposium in New York City on November 5, 2019.

• For Benaya, life at the Boyar Residence made him want to be the best that he can be 

• Yuval believes that, thanks to his counselor at the Ein Carmit residence, he succeeded in attaining a matriculation certificate and enlisting for meaningful military service

• Yael voluntarily left home to access values, meaning and a rich social life in a residential school, and Gali, today the Director of the Steinberg Residence and previously a student there, insists on seeing each child as a whole world 

A boarding school for excellence – it’s not what you thought

When Benaya (17) was in third grade, his mother told him and his brother that they would be moving from the north of the country to the south.  “What my mother didn’t tell us was that two weeks previously she had decided to divorce my father,” Benaya recalls.  “I felt I had been uprooted from a place that was familiar and plopped down in a new and strange city, completely different from what I had previously known.”

Students on Boyar High School & Residence campus

The dramatic change led to a decline in his studies.  “A year later, I moved to live with my father, but he was hardly at home because he was forced to work several jobs, so I had to be very independent.  I would make my own food, pick up my brother from pre-school, I did laundry; basically, it all fell on me.  Because I was so tired, many times I didn’t wake up in the morning to go to school.”

At the end of 7th grade, Benaya told his father that he didn’t want to continue learning.  His father insisted on looking for a suitable solution, and pushed him to take the tests for the Boyar Boarding School, a residence for educational excellence and leadership and one of the most well-known, leading boarding schools in Israel.

“At Boyar they spoke to me at eye level, I felt protected and secure and they also pushed me to be the best that I can be,” Benaya re-counts. “One of the nicest things at Boyar is that the teachers and counselors don’t let you lag behind, no way.  When I arrived at the residence, I had a lot of difficulties, both in learning and socially.  Everything was new for me.  As time went on, I noticed that I was doing things because I understood the value behind them and not because someone was making me.

“The support of the counselors and the staff helped me along the way.  The feeling that someone sees me, notices what is happening with me, that gave me a lot of strength. I started believing in myself, and my achievements improved accordingly.”

Like Coming Home to a Warm, Enveloping Hug

Family Day at Ein Carmit Residence

The support from the educational staff is a motif that comes up over and over again in the stories told by residence graduates.  Yuval (23), who completed his studies at Ein Carmit in the Jerusalem hills more than five years ago, and today is a Commander in an artillery battalion, recollects: “When I was studying for my matriculation exam in history, I felt I was getting lost.  I had practically decided to give up on this exam, but Asher, one of my counselors, was insistent and did not give up on me.  He sat with me every day for hours, taught me, reviewed the material with me over and over, and didn’t stop until I took the exam and received an 85.  He is one of the reasons that I have a full matriculation certificate today.”

Life in the residence contributed to Yuval’s acclimatization to the army.  “Unlike others who came from living at home, I was used to living independently, to shared bathrooms, to being far from my home and my parents, and to a certain extent I had an advantage over them.  During my whole time in the army and in general, I am convinced that without the residence, I would not have reached where I am today.”

A few months ago, Yuval came back to Ein Carmit, this time to encourage the senior class to choose meaningful military service.  “Life in the residence did me so much good, that the moment they called and asked me to come to lecture, I immediately agreed. It was amazing to come back in uniform and to meet the students.  For me it was like coming full circle, like coming home to a warm, enveloping hug.  Simply a wonderful feeling.”

Yael, who studied at a school with students from the residence but lived at home with her parents, saw her friends who boarded, their independence and their social world and want-ed to be part of it.  “When I told my parents that I wanted to move to the residence, they took it hard.  They couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave home, but that wasn’t it.  In the end, they were convinced and agreed that I would move to the residence, and they understood that the place does me good, I can flourish.  In the residence, the mobile phone is not your best friend; there are enrichment activities throughout the afternoon, there are social activities and a learning center.  Today I know that this is the greatest gift that my parents could give me in life.”

To Fulfill Your Maximum Potential

Students at the Steinberg Residence

For the educational staff of the Society for Advancement of Education residences, each child is a whole world.  “When a new student comes to the residence, we don’t only look at their report cards, but at the person as a whole,” says Gali Hakim, Director of the Steinberg Residence, who himself was a student in the residence.

“It is important for us to listen to them, to see who each child really is, what their difficulties are, what their strengths are, what interests them and what moves them.  No one is forced to be here.  They all choose to be here. From the child’s point of view, this is a tremendous opportunity to fulfill their maximum potential and to be in a supportive environment, educationally, socially and emotionally.

“This is the secret of residences’ success.  It is no surprise that among residences graduates there is almost 100% enlistment in the IDF, more than 95% of the students complete a full matriculation certificate and half of them continue on to advanced degrees in institutions of higher education. Among our graduates there are quite a few doctors, judges, heads of hospital departments, educators, CEOs and entrepreneurs.”

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