Patrick DeYoung (center) with fellow leaders of the Vassar Refugee Solidarity, Professor Höhn (second from left) and Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley (second from right).
Patrick DeYoung (center) with fellow leaders of the Vassar Refugee Solidarity, Professor Höhn (second from left) and Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley (second from right).

Vassar Vets Scholar Uses Lessons from Frontlines to Impact Local Community

Fall 2018 | Veterans

During his two deployments to Afghanistan, Posse Scholar Patrick DeYoung witnessed many local families fleeing the war-torn country. The experience fueled his desire to not only serve his country but to also help the scores of refugees enduring unimaginable hardships.

Patrick grew up in Philadelphia and credits his parents for his sense of duty to the community and to helping those less fortunate. As a noncommissioned officer in the Army, he gained both leadership skills and a rich perspective that continue to serve him well as a Vassar Posse Scholar and member of the Poughkeepsie community.

After attending a Vassar lecture series on the refugee crisis in Syria during his sophomore year, Patrick was excited to connect with the organizing professor, Maria Höhn, and other community members about ways the student body could get involved. In response to the crisis, he and a few other Vassar students established the Refugee Solidarity Alliance (RSA), which works to meet the needs of refugee families as they transition into new homes and new lives in the Poughkeepsie area.

We hoped to fill in gaps left by resettlement agencies and social services.

“With this student project, we hoped to fill in the gaps left by the resettlement agencies and social services agencies here in the U.S. to ensure that refugee families have all that they need to have a strong start,” says Patrick. “It is unrealistic for us to expect people to be placed in foreign communities and swim right away.”

The student group raises funds and collects household goods and clothing.

“We want the displaced families to show up to a place that resembles a home, with couches in the living room, soap in the bathroom, and a stocked fridge,” he explains.

As a veteran and non-traditional student, Patrick found he was quickly able to win the trust and gain the backing of community organizations, including the mid-Hudson Islamic Association, Christ Episcopal Church Poughkeepsie and the local Jewish temple.

Patrick knows that the project would not have been possible without the collaboration of local stakeholders. Now a soon-to-be graduate, he hopes the bonds he helped build will allow future generations of students to continue these efforts in his absence.

Patrick was recognized for his advocacy work with the Frances Aaron Hess ’53 Award, given each year to two Vassar students. The award comes with a $1,000 grant to be donated to the organization of the awardees’ choice. Patrick chose to donate his award money to Hudson River Housing, an organization that has helped provide housing to refugees moving into Dutchess County.

Patrick plans to go to law school in the near future, so that he can continue to have an impact in the lives of those in need.