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    Posted July 31, 2015 by
    Lutz, Florida
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    First Person: Your essays

    A Dream Come True in America


    You never believe in something until it happens to you. I never believed in miracles until a miracle touched my life. In May of 2007 my life forever changed as my father, a cab driver at the time, walked into our living room and told me a story about a woman, to whom he gave a ride that morning, who was searching for bright Russian children to take to the United States for an education. Without ever fully comprehending what I heard, I gave my father my word that I would do whatever I had to for a shot at this peculiar, yet exciting opportunity. After a few months of interviews, tests and examinations, I found myself sitting in a window seat of Lufthansa Airlines on the way from Saint Petersburg, Russia, via Frankfurt, Germany, to a final destination in Miami, USA. So my journey began.


    Stepping out of the plane, I felt Florida’s burning humidity sting my nose and my tongue. I could almost taste the heat. I could not breathe normally, nor could I believe that I had just landed in the United States of America! Walking from the plane to the bus that would take me to the airport terminal, I felt that I was embarking on the most thrilling adventure of my life. I was not mistaken.


    Arriving at North Broward Prep in Boca Raton, FL, a beautiful school on a large campus with lakes, sports fields, and huge academic buildings, I realized that my understanding of the world was beginning to change forever. From the first days at the new school, I had to learn English from simple words and elementary phrases, as I was completely lost language-wise both in and out of class, but I had to prepare myself to absorb and comprehend a new culture, including its mentality and values. I learned that I could go to a cafeteria for lunch, that I could have my P.E. class outside in the warm Florida sun, and that after school I could go to a soccer practice or swim in an open pool. Ordinary things that were the norm to my American peers astonished me in the most remarkable ways. I no longer needed to worry about eating well, staying warm, and dressing comfortably in the clothes that I preferred to wear.


    My American sponsors, both the school and the nonprofit organization called RenProject, which assisted greatly in the program and became the foundation for my American future, made sure that I no longer needed to worry about things I worried about in Russia. With assistance and guidance from RenProject and mentors at North Broward prep, I was able to focus on my studies and begin to adapt to a new way of life in the United States. By means of hard work, dedication and perseverance through homesickness and nostalgia, I began to lay the foundation for a bright future.


    While I faced many challenges along the road, and on some days I felt so lonely that I got sick to my stomach at the thought of being so far away from home, I knew that I could take not even a second for granted and that opportunities that I have today may not be there tomorrow. A number of times during my journey it seemed that everything was going downhill and that I had not enough power to keep my future in my hands. When North Broward Prep decided no longer to support the program, thus leaving RenProject to search for a new school, I realized how truly fortunate I was for everything that happened to me up to that point and how I had to make every day count like there would be no tomorrow. Fortunately, I was never in this fight alone, and kind people always reached out to me in the toughest times.  


    Just as we were packing our bags under the assumption our dream was over, I found out that Academy at the Lakes, an independent school in Land O Lakes, Florida, was willing to see us through.  I went through high school with a strong commitment not only to academic excellence, but also to an all-around involvement in sports, clubs and community service. My goal was to build a confident, responsible and mature self by my senior year so that I would have all the assets I needed to get a scholarship to an American university.


    While the college application process by itself was beyond stressful, I had to juggle on top of it my senior-year coursework and athletic responsibilities. While the task seemed insurmountable at times, I woke up every morning thinking that I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and that I better do everything I can to make it happen. I applied to twenty-six universities, writing essays and mailing letters week after week, month after month. My future was on the line, and I had only one option. I needed to get a full-ride scholarship to keep my American dream alive. While not all fairy tales have a happy ending, and I am by no means calling my journey a fairy tale, the ending to my college application battle was indeed a happy one. In March of 2014, I received a scholarship to Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. I earned four more years to turn my life into a success. An even greater success.


    While my battle for college acceptance was won, the war for a bright future in the United States was in full swing. After receiving the news of my acceptance to Bucknell, I could taste not only the excitement of the upcoming four years, but also the pressure of responsibility to take full advantage of this phenomenal opportunity. In the summer before my freshman year, which I spent in Russia, I prepared myself mentally and emotionally to be ready to dedicate the necessary time, effort and energy to reach my goal of becoming employed in the United States after Bucknell. Looking to major in Economics and Finance at Bucknell and dreaming of a job on Wall Street, I knew that I was up against thousands of bright and talented young individuals striving for a similar future. Arriving at Bucknell for my freshman-year orientation, I realized that I had to be disciplined, ambitious and hungry to succeed and that I had to keep my eyes on the end-goal to avoid being distracted and falling down along the way.


    I recently wrapped up my sophomore year at Bucknell with a 4.0 GPA and a summer position as a research assistant in Bucknell’s Economics department.  I picked up a few finance books from the library to read on my free time and fill my head full of finance knowledge for winter and spring internship interviews. I am feeling as energetic and ambitious as ever, and recognizing how much generosity, care and support was given to me by kind people along the along, I am determined to not let them down.


    In the end, I realize that true happiness lies in the people around you, so the best reward for success is to ensure that people who you truly care about are safe and glad to be a part of your life. With this in mind, I am driven to success mainly by the goal of giving back to the communities in Russia and the United States where I grew up and was given this amazing opportunity. I dream of one day changing the life of some young child, or more than one, for the better just like eight years ago someone changed mine.


    Among those who have played the most significant roles in my American life is Eric Wilson, the founder of The RenProject and my American mother, father, uncle and friend. He put years of his life, effort and funds towards ensuring that I, along with a few other Russian boys, have a safe future in the United States. He was the one responsible for finding a school that accepted me and the other Russian boys after North Broward Prep broke the promises it had made to our families. He was the only one who did not turn away from me and the rest of the small Russian crew when our original sponsors were no longer able to contribute to the program. At one point, he put everything he had on the line for us, but not because he wanted to be recognized, but because he believed in the American dream and stayed faithful to the idea that everyone deserves a chance. Eric Wilson is almost single-handedly responsible for me having the ability to share this story, and as he has kept his faith in me for all my years.

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