Office: (417) 873-7415
Fax: (417) 873-7537
Other than scenes from Law and Order, I have never seen the inside of a prison cell. My family, however, is all too familiar with them. The last three generations of my family served time in Soviet prisons, not for something they said or did, but because of what they believed.
My family relocated to the United States in 1999, seeking refuge from religious persecution in Ukraine. My great-grandfather served a 15-year-sentence in a Siberian prison camp. My grandfather, who served as pastor of a large Pentecostal church for 40 years, the majority of which was under the Communist regime, underwent several public, citywide trials for his faith. My father got the lighter end of the deal, serving “only” three days in a local jail.
Despite facing a potential life of religious harassment and discrimination, my eight-year-old self did not understand why we had to move. All I knew was that everything familiar and dear was taken away. I was bitter and frustrated when we first moved to the U.S - I hated feeling incompetent, struggling to communicate at school, and being forced to re-learn basic social skills.
It was not until fifth grade that I discovered a different world in books. Books did not judge my accent or how often I mispronounced or misused words. Instead, they offered possibilities, showing that in America, you can be anything you wanted to be.
So, I aimed high, sought out challenges, and worked hard. But, it wasn’t until tenth grade that I realized college was really an option for me. Neither my parents, grandparents, nor their parents attended college – the religious persecution, changing regimes, war and political corruption simply did not allow it.
And there I was – a tenth grader finding myself on a college campus for the first time. Drury was hosting a high school accounting conference, and I was attending with my school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter. I saw the students with their textbooks, laughing and discussing class assignments, I sat in the classrooms and ate in the Commons. It was like entering another world, one that I had only read about in books, so I made it my sole goal to get into Drury and get it paid for in scholarships.
I ended up graduating at the top of my class and was accepted into multiple universities with several generous scholarships from both community donors and the universities. Through out the college admissions process, Drury admissions staff, faculty, and students were phenomenal – they guided me through every step of the process and answered all my questions (I must have sent out a hundred emails asking about everything, from clubs on my various interests to what the college experience is like).
Now, graduation is only weeks away, and I fondly remember the shy, terrified freshman I had been four years ago. And I compare her to who I am today – the more confident, educated leader, and it makes me more grateful than ever for the opportunity to get a college education.
I credit most of my personal and intellectual growth to the students, faculty, and staff in the Breech School of Business Administration. Their wisdom and kindness has given me a wealth of knowledge, confidence and maturity. They challenged me to take courses that have expanded my horizons and taught me what it’s like to be a confident (aspiring) businesswoman. I am especially grateful for each of my professors and advisors – their unending patience to go over the same questions over and over again until I finally understood the material, their recommendations for internships and for sharing their knowledge every single day.
This fall, I will start law school. That tenth grader on Drury’s campus years ago wouldn’t have dreamed of this in her wildest fantasies, but through my experiences and successes at Drury, I was exposed to the idea of becoming an attorney and making an even bigger impact on the world. My professors and advisors were there with me through every step of the law school admissions process, and I hope as I start my career soon, I can make every one of them proud of the professional I will become.
Finally, I hope that my efforts to succeed in school and beyond have made a good start on showing my parents how thankful I am for their sacrifices. After all, they gave up their entire lives, their home, and everything familiar to give my nine younger siblings and I a chance to pursue the American dream. A simple thank you is not nearly enough to express my gratitude.