When 15-year-old Sarina Price told her parents that she wanted to attend high school in Israel, her mother, Daphne, was enthusiastic. But like most Jewish moms, Daphne was nervous about the prospect of her daughter living 6000 miles away from their home in Silver Spring, Maryland.
While the idea of their daughter attending school in Israel aligned with their Zionist values, Sarina’s parents needed to be sure that this would be the best move for her future. They had questions about how this could work, both from a logistical and educational perspective.
After looking into Naale Elite Academy’s network of prestigious boarding high schools for Diaspora teens, Daphne learned that her daughter could enjoy an Israel immersion experience in a safe environment that allows for adventure but provides plenty of support and supervision.
“Sarina wanted Israel. As parents, we wanted a safe and solid education. Naale was the perfect destination,” says Daphne.
Naale was founded in 1994, primarily serving high schoolers from post-Soviet Union countries. Today, Naale students hail from 65 countries, giving Diaspora teens the opportunity to meet their peers from diverse backgrounds and create friendships that cross cultural barriers.
Teens aged 13-16 who are eligible for Israel’s Law of Return may apply to Naale. Acceptance to the program includes a full scholarship, covering the cost of tuition as well as airfare, room and board.
“I chose Naale because it was a great opportunity for me to do and learn the things that I’m interested in, in my favorite place in the world,” says Gaily, a 17-year-old Naale student from Miami.
“It’s a completely different high school experience than the U.S. It requires you to be really independent, and you have a lot of fun on the way. It’s a great way to figure out who you are as a person.”
Educational excellence and support that matters
With 10 academically rigorous schools to choose from, students can pursue their studies at the institution that’s the best fit for both their educational and personal goals.
All of Naale Elite Academy’s schools offer an internationally-recognized high school diploma, known as a “full bagrut” in Israeli high schools. There are a plethora of options available for schools, each with their own academic focus and level of religious observance.
“Our decision to enroll Sarina at Ayanot was based on the fact that they look at each child holistically and weigh out each child’s interests socially, academically, and in Sarina’s case, religiously,” Daphne explains, noting her family’s Modern Orthodox background.
Parents and students can choose between coed schools, gender-segregated ulpanot for girls or a yeshiva for boys, and a Chabad-run school for girls. Some schools have specialty focuses, including technology, earth sciences and agriculture.
All Naale schools foster and strengthen Jewish identity. Every educational institution in Naale’s network serves Kosher food and teaches the Jewish holidays, which are celebrated with much festivity.
Students can come to Naale with little or no Hebrew at all. During their first year on Naale, they will participate in an intensive Hebrew ulpan, according to their level of previous familiarity with the language. They’ll receive long-term support, including fully-funded private tutoring and mainstream classes, to empower them with the level of Hebrew they need to succeed.
Social and cultural enrichment for the global citizen
The options in Naale’s network range from smaller schools with highly personalized attention to 1,000 student youth villages, where Naale teens learn alongside sabras (Israeli-born) who aren’t boarding at the school.
Although Naale students are encouraged to develop a sense of independence and self-sufficiency, they are by no means “alone” in Israel.
All teens have access to a broad support staff of trained professionals and young adult peer counselors, who provide hands-on assistance with everything from logistical issues to language barriers and practical matters in day-to-day life.
Daphne says her daughter “has so much support at Naale – classroom educators, guidance counselors, live-in ‘house mothers’ in the dorms, and Israeli volunteers who are just a tad older than the teens themselves, and therefore so relatable. Everyone is there for questions, guidance, Hebrew coaching, emotional support, and guidance through cultural challenges and societal norms.”
Each Naale student volunteers in their local municipality outside of classroom hours, and students are expected to both excel academically and contribute to the community. Bonding with their cohorts is a significant part of the program, and the staff cultivates activities to foster that bond.
“Because the program is international, there are students in Sarina’s program from North and South America, Europe, and Asia,” Daphne says. “They’re all in the same boat – learning how to navigate buses, how to order off a menu, and use an ATM in Hebrew.”
The diversity of their class, which unites Jewish teens from across the Diaspora, provides an amazing opportunity for students to gain critical socialization skills and a unique insight into connecting with people from other backgrounds, in addition to their educational experience.
A full scholarship that connects Jewish teens with their roots
Many Naale families cite the high cost of Jewish education in their communities as a reason sending their teenager to high school in Israel was an appealing option.
Applicants just need to pay a one-time $600 application fee, and then an additional one-time $900 acceptance fee upon confirming their participation in the program.
Everything else is covered by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Naale Elite Academy students enjoy fully funded airfare to Israel at the beginning of their program, room and board, off-campus travel expenses, tiyulim (trips around the country), and medical care.
Once students graduate from Naale, their options are open. For students who aren’t Israeli citizens, they can make Aliyah and stay in Israel, building a life in the Jewish State with a built-in support network of friends and solid Hebrew language skills. They can also return to their home countries, internationally-recognized high school diploma in hand, with no outstanding obligations to Naale, Israel, or the Jewish Agency. Students who are already Israeli citizens will need to perform sherut leumi (national service) or army service after graduating from Naale.
To learn more about Naale Elite Academy’s options and find the right fit for your teen, you can get in touch with a representative here.