Sam Ponsford to welcome four refugees on scholarships to College's School of English & Culture this summer
Marlborough College's School of English and Culture that runs alongside the annual Summer School (July 8 to August 4), offers English language tuition and an Open Minds course for British teenagers. This year it will also be welcoming four teenage refugees who are living in Britain and who have won scholarships to join the School's sessions.
The scholarships are named after Ahmad Al-Rashid - a refugee from Syria, who played a notable part in the inaugural year of the School's Open Minds course. In telling his story, he made a tremendous impact on the School's students.
Sam Ponsford, the School's director, had ten applications for the scholarships - and says choosing the successful ones was very challenging. Those taking up the scholarships have come from a variety of backgrounds and countries - Somalia, Syria, Eritrea and Iran.
Sam has been part of Marlborough and the College since he was four years-old. While he was growing up, his father was a housemaster and still works at the College as a teacher in the English Department. Sam left the College in 2000 - once he had sat his GCSEs.
After a course in tourism at sixth form college in Hereford, he became an adventure instructor in a number of countries for a good number of years. He then focused on helping youngsters with behavioural and emotional problems through a number of groups working with young people through the Prince's Trust, amongst other organisations.
For a year he worked at a residential care centre near Kendal for teenagers with severe behavioural problems - mainly due to family breakdown. Many of them were violent - "It was a constant battle. Not something you could do for very long."
He then did a course in outdoor studies at Lancaster University's Ambleside campus. But soon after retrained as an English language teacher. He has been living in Galicia and working at a big private academy there for eight years - with his wife and children.
At the academy he gained the title 'head of teenagers': "In a way, teenagers are my comfort zone. It's a fantastic time - they're at a cross-roads. They're not sure who they are or where they're going. Working with them can be life changing for them."
Sam Ponsford's father was approached by the school regarding the job of director of the School of English and Culture when John Blake, the head of the Summer School, was setting it up. Dr Ponsford had more than enough to keep himself busy and suggested his son for the job.
As well as having a broad agenda, the School's courses have become a mix of learning, mentoring and confidence building. The aim is to enable students "To discover a love of learning - it's fun and interesting to be curious about the world - to be excited about the world around you. And it will help them make the most of university."
He expects the refugees will gain enormously from the course and also share their experiences with the British students who can benefit from widening their view of the world: "We hope this opportunity will be of great assistance to the successful applicants as they start their new life here in the UK and, hopefully, give them some valuable skills to take back to their countries, if and when they decide the time is right for them to return."
"Having their unique perspective on the world will also be of great value to the other students on the course as we try to create the richest possible forum of debate and discussion during the course"