SARASOTA -- New College of Florida signed a global scholarship pact Tuesday with Daughters for Life, an organization that connects Middle Eastern women with a college education in the United States and Canada.
New College will enroll 10 Middle Eastern women each year for undergraduate degrees as part of a pilot program with the organization. The scholarships will cover tuition, room and board.
Izzeldin Abuelaish, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times, founded Daughters for Life in 2010 after losing three daughters in an Israeli shelling in 2009.
The Daughters for Life program is for young women who live in societies where education for women is not emphasized. Recruiters in the Middle East raise awareness about opportunities for bright women and recommend them to a college.
Toronto-based Daughter for Life has also partnered with Trent and Tufts universities. The pilot program with New College will be the organization's largest partnership.
The first class of Daughters for Life students will be admitted to New College in the fall of 2014.
The Daughters for Life students will have to meet all New College academic requirements and demonstrate proficiency in English by taking the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which can be taken at several sites globally.
Hon. Charles Williams, circuit court judge of the 12th circuit of Florida, announced the partnership as part of his May 24 commencement speech.
Plans for the partnership began when Abuelaish visited Sarasota to speak at the Herman and Sally Boxser Diversity Initiative and Embracing Our Differences.
New College President Donal O'Shea said this program is a way to diversify the university and continue to expose students to a global community. Students will come from countries such as Syria, Israel, Jordan and parts of Palestine.
The Middle East students will gain a private college education and American cultural immersion, and the college students will have an impact on the girls' lives as well, O'Shea said.
Abuelaish said the women will be obligated to return to their home countries at the end of their college experience.
"The idea is to go home and serve and contribute to their own communities and use their education to benefit their own communities," Abuelaish said.
Women who have studied through Daughters of Life have been interested in areas such as environmental science.
Daughters for Life is a community initiative O'Shea said will need local help and support, including host families to house students over breaks and help them transition into a new community.
New College is also seeking financial support for the program to augment the 10 scholarships.
"We are reaching out to Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities for support," O'Shea said.
O'Shea said they have also looking to Embracing our Differences for support.
Daniel Boxser, founder of the Herman and Sally Boxser Diversity Initiative, said host families will likely be volunteers. Whether host families will be provided support will depend on donations and philanthropic support received.
"Right now it is verbal, we still have a lot of details to decide on," Boxser said. "The most important thing is that the family is the right fit for the student."
O'Shea said he is uncertain how the future of the partnership with Daughters for Life will take shape.
"Maybe it will spread to other schools," O'Shea said.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081