Meet The Diverse Students Of Hadassah Academic College In Jerusalem

In the heart of Jerusalem, at Hadassah Academic College (HAC), students come together to learn, to grow, and to prepare themselves to become active members of Israeli society. This month, as we graduate more than 600 students from our College, we celebrate with all of our students who have reached an academic milestone. More than that, these students pursued their dreams at HAC, and many will continue to do so in Jerusalem as professionals, contributing to the diversity and vibrancy of the city.

Over the last ten years, the trend of young adults to leave Jerusalem for Tel Aviv has subsided. Walk around numerous parts of the city—from Machane Yehuda, to Nachlaot, to Tachana Rishona, and more — and the creativity and energy infused into the city by young people is palpable. Many are students or graduates of HAC.

They study in an environment with Israeli-Jewish students of all backgrounds and beliefs; Christian and Muslim Arabs (both Israeli and Palestinian); new immigrants from around the world; Ethiopian Jewish students; and those with special needs including learning and physical challenges. Women comprise 70 percent of our student community. Half of the students at HAC are the first in their family to pursue a college education.

Meet three recent graduates, who exemplify HAC students’ dedication and ambition:

Shahaf Ben Abu came to HAC with a background in art, having worked in his father’s carpentry shop. He advanced his professional skills through high level coursework and engaging with faculty. As he says, “From the beginning, students are taught industrial thinking, and they get to know design work from all over the world.” After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Inclusive Industrial Design, Shahaf now is a Senior Industrial Designer and part of a research and development team at Manfrotto, a company that specializes in design solutions for professional photography development equipment.

Ravit Yechezkeli wanted to earn her degree for quite some time, but was busy raising young children. Once they grew older, she decided to enroll at HAC to first complete the Preparatory Program and then work towards her degree in Health Systems Management. She is a medic by trade for Magen David Adom; her degree enabled her to advance her career and go into nursing. She credits the Preparatory Department with helping her “acquire skills that were crucial for me in furthering my academic studies.”

Mirav Ravae earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communication Disorders and then earned her Master’s degree in the Department of Communication Disorders, with a focus on bilingual and multi-cultural communication. While serving as Director of Youth Rehabilitation for Communication Disorders at Alyn Hospital, Israel’s only dedicated pediatric and adolescent rehabilitation hospital, she also worked as a speech therapy clinician at HAC’s Adler Aphasia Center. Today, Mirav is director of a private center for children’s neurologic rehabilitation. “There are so many moving stories of children recovering from injury,” she adds. “This is what gives me the strength to continue. I love what I do – my work is completely satisfying. My job is to help my patients communicate better”

And this is only a small sampling of the stories that help paint a rich picture of our student population. HAC also proudly hosts Israel’s largest academic program (900 students) to educate both male and female ultra-Orthodox “Haredi” students toward careers in the public and private sectors, with Bachelor degree tracks offered in six different areas; another one will be added next year. These students come from yeshivot that until now did not permit their students to pursue a college education leading toward professional careers.

Certainly there are real challenges to being situated in the heart of downtown Jerusalem, a city with competing claims and interests, with our student population. But we unabashedly aspire to contribute to a better society, and work to foster a culturally inclusive campus marked by mutual respect and understanding. Our belief is that diversity is a reflection of our society and a source of strength. Each and every student, regardless of background, belief, or situation is a respected and valued member of our College community.

When we engage with our students, we see the common link they all share: a desire to pursue their academic dreams and to become a part of the Israeli workforce. So we do everything possible to help students become skilled professionals and active citizens. Our academic programs are pragmatic and career focused—relevant for today and in anticipation of future trends. We offer innovative degree programs that align with the evolving needs of the workplace and prepare students so that they are ready for work and ready for life. Our educational approach blends new technologies and techniques, knowledge of the workplace, innovation, and fiscal responsibility with a commitment to high level academic learning, community involvement, and personal attention.

As a result, more than 90% of our students successfully complete their academic degree studies, and 85% of our students secure employment in their field upon graduation. Our students graduate with the capacity to attain leadership roles in their respective professions because of knowledge and skills they acquired—as well as their abilities to think critically and creatively and to communicate effectively.

As we celebrate the class of 2017, we also look to the future, knowing we can build further on our foundation. In the coming year, we strive to expand the College’s reach to even more sectors of Israeli society through opening doors to higher education, as well as better serving the increasing number of students who are choosing to study at HAC. To do this, we are working to establish Israel’s first Center for Diversity and Inclusion, which would further advance a diverse and inclusive campus, engaging students and members of the college community of all backgrounds to ensure personal, academic, and professional growth and success. The Center also would offer students counseling support to succeed and pro-actively open a door to higher education to additional qualified students (both Jews and Arabs) who may otherwise not find a campus-friendly supportive institution at which to study.

There is no other place in the world like Jerusalem. Our students both reflect and contribute to this reality. They combine passion with pragmatism; working towards something that a generation ago was unthinkable for many in their family. We salute the class of 2017 and together look forward to keeping the heart pumping loudly in the center of Jerusalem.

This story "Meet The Diverse Students Of Hadassah Academic College In Jerusalem" was written by Bertold Fridlender.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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