May 25, 2005
They came to Mesa to make their nations better. Three seniors will graduate today — and return to their Eastern bloc countries that underwent revolutions and gained international attention even as the girls sat in Mesa classrooms.
Sophiya Mayevska, 17, and Iryna Zayats, 16, will return to Ukraine. Mayevska will graduate tonight from Westwood High School, and Zayats from Mesa High School. Eliza Amatova, 16, has already returned to her home city of Osh, Kyrgyzstan, this month after finishing high school at Mountain View High School.
The girls came to the United States under the World Link program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Wayne Manske, a Mesa teacher, oversees the local branch. The program brings students from former Soviet Union satellites to the United States so they can learn about leadership and democracy.
When they return home, they’ll spend the summer taking tests to qualify for graduation in their home schools. Then, they have big plans.
Amatova headed home early to attend her second prom. Next, she’ll research how she can help save her suburban region’s hospital.
"I learned about community service activities," Amatova said. "Our hospital — they might close it. They don’t have money. If they close it, all the little small villages won’t have hospitals."
After spending the year volunteering at a child crisis center, Mayevska is planning to start a similar program at her hometown of Lviv.
"That is an issue — for kids of families of parents who get divorced or the kids who really need a place to stay, if a kid is being abused," she said. "I know I can do things. I am more free and outgoing."
Zayats said she has taken a liking to fundraising, and hopes to also support causes in her hometown of Novoyavorivsk.
She will also share the message to her community, she said, that it is possible to have a career, or change careers, even if you don’t score well on tests that get students into the best Ukraine colleges. So much pressure is placed on students to make a decision early on, but if they don’t go to college right away, they don’t try later, she said.
"You have a life long to educate yourself," she said.