It took less than four hours on April 19 for more than 100 families from the French-American School of New York (FASNY) to answer the call when alerted that 30 high school students from Nancy, France were stranded in the U.S. waiting to return home and would need shelter and schooling for up to 12 days. FASNY receptionist Sophie Lombumier was overwhelmed with phone calls within 10 minutes of a school-wide request.
“I wasn’t surprised by the positive response from our families,” said Ms. Lombumier. “When we need help, they always come through. But I was surprised at how quickly it happened. I was away from my desk for 10 minutes, and when I returned, I had at least 12 messages, and the phone kept ringing all afternoon.”
At the request of Consul Général Philippe Lalliot, the school had also been prepared to use the gym to house an even larger group that was unable to fly home on April 16. That group found lodging in the city.
In the uncertainty of the situation created when volcanic ash from Iceland halted flights to Europe, the school was ready to open its doors to the Nancy students. Families were prepared to house as many as four students per household for the duration. FASNY is accredited by the French Ministry of National Education and its curriculum could have satisfied the educational needs of the students from France.
FASNY was ready, but by the end of the afternoon, authorities learned that the Nancy students would be able to return home safely that same evening.
This isn’t the first time this year that the FASNY community has stepped up to help. Six Haitian students, including two seniors who will graduate with the rest of the senior class in June, have been attending classes at the Mamaroneck campus since the earthquake devastated their country and school in Port-au-Prince. Four of the Haitian students have been living with local families.
It’s unknown how long the Haitian students will reside in Westchester, but they have been fitting into FASNY, which already had students with Haitian roots and has 45 countries represented in its student body.
The French-American School of New York offers bilingual and bi-cultural education to more than 800 students per year on three campuses in Larchmont, Mamaroneck, and Scarsdale. Students come from a mix of local, French-American, French expatriate and other international families. The bilingual curriculum allows for each student to learn a third language and participate in sports and after-school activities. FASNY accepts non-French speakers in Nursery and Pre-Kindergarten. For more information, visit www.fasny.org.
Jane von Trapp is the director for institutional advancement at the French-American School.