Jennifer Klingbeil read and watched the news in February about the war in Ukraine with both shock and compassion. Like many of us here in the United States, she felt moved to action, wanting to help the Ukrainian people but not sure how.
That changed after Klingbeil received a call from Kellie Lind. Lind, Pacific Union College’s vice president of advancement, was reaching out as a friend to offer her home as a place to stay for any of Klingbeil’s relatives who might have fled Ukraine.
Klingbeil felt like it was “a sign” since she had been thinking about PUC. She talked with Lind about her fervent desire to help Ukrainians. Perhaps they could work together.
Their idea blossomed into an initiative—Mission: Ukraine. Through the program, 10 Ukrainian students displaced by war will travel to the United States to attend Pacific Union College.
Over 70 students have already applied to this program and have gone through a rigorous selection process. The chosen group will start school here in Napa Valley this fall.
Both Ukraine and PUC are close to Klingbeil’s heart. Jennifer’s mother, Adventina Shiwotenko, was Ukrainian. Remarkably, she started the country’s first Seventh-day Adventist school in Kyiv. “Christian education was not available under Communism,” Klingbeil said, “but once the Iron Curtain came down, she was determined to make sure Ukrainian young people had the opportunity to learn Christian morals and values at school.”
Lind said PUC has a long history of service. It is integrated in the college’s curriculum and demonstrated in the large number of students embarking on mission trips each year.
The Mission: Ukraine project continues that tradition of service.
“The opportunity to have these courageous Ukrainian students, who have been through so much, find support and refuge on our campus will be a gift for everyone,” Lind said.
Klingbeil, who attended PUC and met her husband while going to school there, is a real estate agent for Sotheby's in Napa. A portion of all her sales goes to Esther Ambs Worthy Student fund at PUC. A beloved teacher at the college for many years, Ambs was also the aunt of Klingbeil’s husband.
The college will cover 50% of tuition and fees for these 10 pre-selected Ukrainian students. The organization and generous donors will fund the remaining balance.
Mission: Ukraine has many levels of sponsorship. “On the program’s website, one can download a booklet that shows all the items that can be purchased to help these students—a simple $75 welcome bag, dorm room bedding, a bike to ride once they get to campus, all the way up to sponsoring tuition for a student for the school year,” Klingbeil said.
Those who donate a complete tuition package and would like to be involved with the students directly can also apply to be a host.
The program will last 12-18 months for these students. Since the outcome of the war in Ukraine is uncertain, some students might consider continuing to finish a four-year degree within the safety of the Pacific Union College campus.
“I hope we all take this opportunity to reach out to these young people and show them our Christian love and support by welcoming them into our community and country,” Klingbeil said. “What a great learning experience it can be for us as well!”
For more about this mission and ways you can support Ukrainian students, please visit puc.edu/mission-ukraine.
By Laura Gang