Syrian refugee Amal Alnakoula is a true Glenroy College success story. The once-shy teen, who didn’t know a single word of English when she lined up for her first day of secondary school back in 2017, is now studying biomedical science.

But that’s not all for this quiet achiever. Amal is also is the proud double recipient of the Tali Sklan Refugee Scholarship. This special prize recognises outstanding achievement and is awarded to Glenroy College alumni from a refugee background who perform well in VCE and go on to study at university. Amal, now 19, is in her second year of a three-year biomedical science degree at Deakin University’s Burwood campus and it is the second year she has received scholarship support.

The scholarship comes courtesy of writer and former ABC executive Carole Sklan, who began working with Glenroy College several years ago as a volunteer EdConnect tutor. She saw the learning potential of so many of the College’s refugee students and started the scholarship as a way to honour the legacy and memory of her father Tali, who came to Australia as a refugee himself after the Second World War.

“”The people that we’ve been able to support are really fine young people. Coming from a war zone and coming to Australia as a refugee to pursue their dreams is wonderful. If I can support that, then I’m glad to play a role,” Ms Sklan said.

“I’m very proud of Amal and how focused she is. I very much enjoy following her progress and watching her successes.”

From Syria to Burwood, via Glenroy

Amal is the third Glenroy College student to receive the scholarship behind Mohammad Daghagheleh, who finished Year 12 in 2020 and went on to study law, and Zahra Bahmani, who graduated Year 12 in 2019 and later studied biomedicine.

Assistant Principal Lidia Tizian said the opportunity the Tali Sklan Refugee Scholarship provided to Glenroy’s refugee teens was priceless.

“Particularly for asylum seekers and refugees, they wouldn’t have the opportunity or would find it very difficult to go on to further study. This allows them to actually access further education,” Ms Tizian said. “This has been phenomenal. We’re very blessed to have Carole set up the scholarship.”

Students are chosen based on their goals and aspirations for further study beyond secondary school as well as their performance in Year 12.

“Amal was always very conscientious and always wanted to do her best,” Ms Tizian said. “She is driven, and driven is the key word here. Amal wants to pursue her passion for medicine and she’s a very worthy recipient and a very good role model.”

‘Just do your best’

Glenroy College principal Andrew Arney and Carole Sklan with scholarship recipient Amal and her mother Fadia.

Amal said receiving the scholarship had made an incredible difference for her family. She has been able to buy a laptop and pay for expensive books that would otherwise have been too costly for her family to afford.

Amal at Glenroy College in 2020

“I’m very thankful and I really appreciate this,” she said, of the scholarship.

” I still miss Glenroy College. I miss the friends, the teachers, the environment – all of it. It’s way different at uni. What I would tell the students at Glenroy now is this. Just do their best. If you put your mind into something and really work for it, you’re going to get there.”

Mum Fadia Alsmara said she couldn’t be prouder of her daughter. With Amal interpreting, she said she couldn’t have wanted a better school – or a better outcome – for her child.

“She’s very proud of what I have achieved and she very much loves this school,” Amal said. “She really appreciated all the support that we got through all the years. She’s just very thankful. She always talks about Glenroy College to everyone.”

Ms Alsmara added: “It is very, very good.”

A connection between College and community

Incoming Principal Andrew Arney welcomed Ms Sklan’s generous support of the College’s graduating students. He said it was an “extraordinary show of faith from our community”.

“It shows the community have a belief in our students and a belief in our staff and a belief in the way we’re doing things at Glenroy College.” Mr Arney said.

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