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Inspiring Hope and Opportunity: Student Refugee Program Empowers Students to Pursue Higher Education

November 15, 2023 | Robyn Soper

In a world marked by ongoing conflict and instability, many young refugees often struggle to attain their dreams of higher education. Nevertheless, there are sources of inspiration that shine through these challenging circumstances, and Olds College's Student Refugee Program (SRP) stands as a prime illustration. This initiative not only offers a refuge to refugee students but also enables them to pursue their educational aspirations, thereby kindling hope and opportunity.

angela-srp.jpgMeet Angela, a 25-year-old student at Olds College, enrolled in the Land & Water Resources Diploma program majoring in Land Reclamation and Remediation. Her journey to Olds College is nothing short of inspirational.

Angela hails from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where she was raised due to the civil war in South Sudan. Growing up, she embraced Kenyan culture, speaking Swahili and navigating a life full of challenges. Yet, her relentless pursuit of knowledge and passion for environmental issues led her to apply for Olds College's Land and Water Resources program.

Before coming to Canada, Angela served as an incentive teacher, providing mentorship to girls through a program sponsored by Window International. Additionally, she worked as a data collector for FilmAid, a communication program, and was a member of Vijana Twaeza (Youths We Can), a group dedicated to tackling malnutrition by educating refugee communities on sustainable agriculture through irrigation. Notably, Angela was also involved in the 'Fishing in the Desert' program, which not only won the prestigious Hult Prize award but also secured the third position across Africa. These diverse roles significantly reinforced her commitment to addressing food insecurity and the environmental impact caused by foreign mining companies.

Angela's educational journey in Canada began with the support of the World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and the SRP. This unique program combines resettlement with higher education opportunities, supporting over 150 refugee students each year across more than 110 Canadian campuses. The success of the SRP is rooted in its youth-to-youth sponsorship model, where young Canadian students actively participate in the sponsorship of refugee students. 

The journey for SRP students is no walk in the park. They have often faced significant academic challenges due to their forced displacement. Some have grown up in refugee camps with limited educational opportunities, while others have experienced repeated displacement from conflict zones, disrupting their studies and forcing them to learn in unfamiliar languages. Angela is a testament to their motivation, potential, community involvement, and positive role modeling.

Before arriving in Canada, SRP students undergo a 12-18 month selection and preparation process in their country of asylum. The selection phase includes written language assessments and oral interviews, administered by WUSC. Accepted students receive pre-departure orientation sessions and, in some cases, language and computer skills courses to prepare for post-secondary education in Canada.

Olds College has played a crucial role in supporting Angela's educational journey. In 2022, the college entered into a partnership with WUSC, and in the following year, they welcomed their first SRP student, Angela. Their commitment to the program continues in 2023-2024 as they continue to support this year’s student who arrived in late August.

However, making this dream a reality requires collective support. Olds College has actively sought funds for various expenses to ensure Angela's success, with generous support from TD Insurance Meloche Monnex, the Rotary Club of Olds, as well as the Olds College Faculty Association (OCFA) and the Students' Association of Olds College (SAOC).

As Angela embraces her life at Olds College, she is making the most of her time by participating in field trips and engaging in the community. She acknowledges that adjusting to a foreign country can be isolating for international students, but she remains open about her experiences with family and friends back home. Additionally, Angela has recently been elected to student government as the Director of International for the SAOC. 

For Angela, her education in Canada is a powerful tool that will empower her to help her home community in South Sudan become self-sustainable, eventually breaking the cycle of aid dependence. She dreams of possibly pursuing a degree at the University of Alberta to address the effect of oil mining on water and soil. This issue has resulted in children being born with abnormal body parts, desertification, and food insecurity. 

Angela's story is a testament to the incredible impact of the Student Refugee Program at Olds College. It showcases the resilience, determination, and potential of refugee students who are given an opportunity to pursue higher education in Canada.

In a world where over 82.4 million people face forced displacement, half of them under 18, the demand for education and support is more critical than ever. Olds College proudly stands by refugees like Angela, providing opportunities for personal growth, learning, and a sense of community. 

To learn more about getting involved in supporting refugees and making a difference, please contact For complete information about the Student Refugee Program, visit 

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