August 31, 2016 - New York – Ten recipients of the Gratitude Scholarship program from Syria, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon will begin their studies at United World College (UWC) schools around the world in September. These students have been chosen based on their high academic performance. Each is either a refugee or displaced, living in extreme poverty, or living with the loss of a parent or a guardian. Seven of the students will attend UWC Dilijan in Armenia, an international co-educational boarding school which hosts students from more than 60 countries.

The Gratitude Scholarship program, valued over $7 million, is a joint undertaking of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and the Near East Foundation. Over the duration of the program, 100 promising students from countries affected by conflict, displacement and poverty in the Middle East will benefit from the opportunity to study at one of the United World College international schools and colleges. The program was established to thank the people of the Middle East who offered shelter and food to those displaced by the Armenian Genocide a century ago.

The Co-Founders of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative have also announced the continuation of the Amal Clooney Scholarship. Now in its second year, the scholarship offers one female student from Lebanon free enrollment in a two-year international baccalaureate program at UWC Dilijan. The student is selected based on her exemplary academic performance and interest in the promotion of human rights and international issues. The scholarship was established to strengthen cross-cultural education and understanding, in honor of the scholarship’s namesake, esteemed international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.

“We are proud to offer education and international experience to deserving students from the Middle East, home to so many Armenians during the last century,” said Ruben Vardanyan, Co-Founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative. “By bringing together young people from across the world, we seek to promote international dialogue and understanding at an early age, when relationships are formed and values are instilled. Our hope is that this reinforces a sense of compassion, understanding and the willingness to help each other, even in the face of adversity.”

This year's Amal Clooney Scholar was selected from more than 43 short-listed applicants for her stellar academic performance, positive energy and passionate sense of social responsibility, which she plans to put to good use by studying law at university.

“We are proud to be able to help empower our next generation of female leaders and humanitarians through this program,” Vardanyan added. “And we’re excited by the possibilities this scholarship holds for the young women of Lebanon and the region.”

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative aims to advance collaborative social and philanthropic projects on behalf of the global Armenian community. Its flagship project is the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, a $1 million global humanitarian prize which honors those who put themselves at risk to enable others to survive. George Clooney, Co-Chair of the Aurora Prize Selection Committee, presented the inaugural Aurora Prize to Ms. Marguerite Barankitse during a ceremony in Armenia on April 24, 2016.

Nominations for next year’s Aurora Prize are open until September 9, 2016. Members of the public are encouraged to nominate inspiring humanitarians who are saving lives and advancing humanitarian causes in all parts of the world. To nominate an eligible candidate, please visit

About the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative

The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is committed to building a broad, global humanitarian movement. The initiative is rooted in inspiring stories of courage and survival that emerged during the Armenian Genocide, when 1.5 million Armenians perished. Those fortunate few who survived were saved also by the courageous and heroic acts of intervening institutions and individuals. A century later, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative seeks to express gratitude, share remarkable stories of survivors and their saviors, and celebrate the strength of the human spirit.


The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative instigates, includes and supports projects designed to raise public awareness and address some of the world’s most pressing humanitarian issues. These projects include the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, the Aurora Dialogues, the Aurora Humanitarian Index, the Aurora Gratitude Projects and the 100 LIVES initiative. The Aurora Humanitarian Initiative is an enterprise of the IDeA Foundation (Initiatives for Development of Armenia).

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About Near East Foundation (NEF)

The Near East Foundation helps build more sustainable, prosperous, and inclusive communities in the Middle East and Africa. NEF has worked with refugees since it was founded in 1915 in response to the Armenian Genocide, and has organized relief and development projects in nearly 50 countries. For the past 100 years, NEF has worked to provide vulnerable and disenfranchised populations with the skills and resources they need in order to fully engage and prosper in their own communities and economies.

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United World College (UWC) Movement

United World College makes education a force to unite peoples, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. Established in 1962 UWC educational movement now is comprising of 16 international schools and colleges, national committees in more than 150 countries, and a series of short educational programmes.

UWC Dilijan School is the first international boarding school of the UWC education model in Eastern Europe and CIS. The school opened in September 2014 in the Armenian town of Dilijan and currently has 198 students enrolled from 72 countries. Its admissions policy aims to make enrollment available to anyone, regardless of socio-economic background, on the basis of demonstrated need. Forty nine percent of students receive full or nearly full scholarships and 43% have partial funding. In May 2016 the first generation of UWC Dilijan alumni graduated; many of them are continuing their education in the leading universities worldwide – Yale, Columbia, UCL, Duke, Berkeley and many more.

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