Boarding schools historically suffer from somewhat of a taboo in Israel. While many students who find themselves in a boarding school framework were placed there by educational or welfare authorities, often because of difficult family situations or a child's personal issues, that's certainly not the case for all of the students at WIZO Gan veNof boarding school. The uplifting stories of three youths, who, despite the reservations of families and friends, made the choice to transfer from schools that did not fit their academic needs to a WIZO boarding school, prove the power of WIZO's educational model. Here, three students from WIZO Gan veNof discuss the positive change that the school has engendered in their lives.
"My big brother transferred to boarding school a year before me and spoke about how great it was," recalls Linoy Israel, a 17-year-old from the city of Lod. "I was always a homebody, not leaving the house very much. I didn't know what to expect from a boarding school at first. My mother was a bit nervous about the change, but now she complains to her own parents about not being sent to a boarding school when she was young. For her it was the first time hearing about someone who made their own decision to transfer to a boarding school! WIZO Gan veNof far exceeds any expectations I had. I knew that its students receive help with studies, but I had no idea how much. I get all the help I need, whenever I need it! The school raised my self-confidence after being very shy for a long time. The only downside is the distance from home, but my mother comes to visit me quite often."
"I was looking for a better quality of education, to receive more assistance with learning and to be a bit more independent," says Sarah Amato, a 16-year-old student from the town of Emanuel. "At first, my father was against me going to boarding school, but after visiting the school he realized that it could fit my needs. At WIZO Gan veNof I get a lot of tutoring help with mathematics and Hebrew, which is important because I've only lived in Israel for five years. Because of WIZO Gan veNof I am more mature and more concerned with my studies. Today my drive to succeed is tremendous and I've discovered new things about myself: I sing in a band that a group of us from the school put together. I had no idea that I could sing!"
"I started middle school, like all the rest of the kids form my kibbutz, at the regional school. After a while, however, I realized that it wasn't for me," admits Matan Funk, a 17-year-old from Kibbutz Nachshonim. "I didn't like the fact that there were 40 students in a classroom. I started looking for a smaller, better place to study. I found WIZO Gan veNof through the internet and immediately got excited. It was somewhat difficult to leave my regional school and the friends I had known since kindergarten. Unfortunately, while I was in in 7th grade my mother passed away. But afterwards, I realized my dream of becoming more independent, without relying on my family for everything. The beginning at the boarding school was tough: I was shy, I misbehaved and was punished several times, and there were even some instances of violence, which is a red line at the school. Once I realized that everyone was there to help me succeed, I became a new person. By 9th grade I was a much better student. Now, going into 11th grade, I'm studying in the theater arts track and performing in plays. One of the greatest things about WIZO Gan veNof is the openness with the teachers; you can speak to them about anything, even the most personal issues. They invest extra time and effort to your success. If you get stuck on a particular subject or question, a teacher will stop and help you - not leave you behind the rest of the class. If there are any disadvantages to studying here, I'm sure they're minor; I haven't found them yet."
"It is time to clear up the misunderstandings about boadring school education in Israel. At WIZO's youth villages and boarding schools, each student receives personal attention, care and planning, says Prof. Rivka Lazovsky, Chairperson of World WIZO. "Students benefit from a complete educational surrounding that includes living quarters, social life, exceptional studies, extra-curricular activities, tutoring and wonderful staff. Students can choose to study agriculture, high-tech, firefighting, and much more, based on their personal dreams and talents - in a way not possible in a standard educational setting. I want to make sure that more parents and students in Israel will come to understand that a WIZO boarding school education is not a refuge of the welfare service but a professional, desirable path to success. I want students with lofty goals and their parents to realize the value of the boarding school framework and actively."