Congratulations to Cherkasy First City Gymnasia Ukraine on its 130th Anniversary
Dear First City Gymnasia,
As you turn 135, I want to extend my warmest wishes for this wonderful anniversary. I am forever grateful for the wonderful experience that I went through in FCG – an experience that has opened the world for me and planted the seeds for a career that I cherish every day. When I look back at my school years and tell my friends from all over the world that I was learning English, French and Japanese in the fifth grade, I am always reminded that my experience was quite unique compared to the rest of the students in the world. Learning the languages has been instrumental in my winning the Future Leaders Exchange Program that sent me to the United States for a year. That experience has enabled me to follow my dreams and receive my higher education in the U.S. and it has given me the opportunity to solidify my knowledge of French in France. I followed my passion for international relations and development with a master’s degreefrom the Clinton
School of Public Service, a school that was founded by President Bill Clinton. While at school I met President Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and many other public servants ranging from government officials to NGO and business leaders who were changing the world one effort at a time. They have always complemented my English speaking ability and I always told them of my school in Cherkasy that has given me the instruments to become fluent even before I came to the United States. I graduated with receiving the only award that is given to a student at the Clinton School graduation and at the time I was alreadyworking for a major international development NGO.
Today my work has taken me back to Ukraine to manage two projects for a Fortune 500 company, which is represented in 120 countries of the world. My work is focused not only on business sustainability but one of its main goals is to improve the life of the Ukrainian rural population.I still think fondly of my school in Cherkasy that has given me a start for all my adventures and has put me on the path to bring social change in my country and in the world. I thank deeply my teachers of English, who have taught me how to strive for perfection and who have helped me learn about other countries.Thank you to my teachers of Ukrainian language and literature, who have helped me to develop my appreciation for what my Ukrainian identity meant in the global context. I also thank my law, history and math teachers who have given me the tools to succeed in many life situations, whether I was working for the government, NGO or for business organizations. Thank you also to the rest of my teachers because you have all made an important contribution to the person who I am today.
Lastly, thank you, my Gymnasia,for the sense of community that you made me feel. I wish only one thing for you – to keep being number one in introducing your students to our big wide world.
Class of 2005
President of the International Christian Charitable Fund "Hope Now", Southampton, the UK
It is a great joy to congratulate you on the occasion of your 130 year celebration. It has been a privilege to be associated with the First City Gymnasium over the past ten years and, even though I am retiring from Hope Now at the end of October this year, I shall maintain an interest in the school.
It is to your credit that you opened your doors to allow, erstwhile homeless young people, places in your establishment, providing for them a secure academic foundation for their continued studies in university and future chosen professions.
Indeed, it is that conscious pursuit for excellence in all things, academic andsocietal, that makes the First City Gymnasium the best school of choice in Cherkassy for any parent who understands that education is more than just passing examinations and desires for their offspring a fully developed social conscience.
Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, the UK
I am delighted to have this opportunity to contribute to the celebrations to mark the 130th Anniversary of your school. Since I first visited Cherkassy in 1992,the school has gone from strength to strength becoming a beacon of excellence not only in the city and region but also nationally. This has been as a result of the dedication and professionalism of outstanding teachers and the hard work of students who love learning for its own sake and who are ambitious to succeed in everything they do. Both of these factors impressed me from the first moment that I arrived in your school and I have never ceased to be amazed by the vision, drive and energy that has created a school that not only excels in the range and quality of its language teaching but that also reaches out to and touches so many aspects of our 21st century world. I believe that teachers and students of the First City Gymnasium can be justly proud of their achievements. I send you my heartfelt congratulations and share with you my confidence that the school will continue to grow, develop and to achieve great things in the future.
Colchester, Essex, the UK
Congratulations to The Fist City Gymnasia on the school's 130th Anniversary. The staff and pupils of Baynards Primary School in Tiptree, Essex, England all wish you joyous elebrations on this historic occasion.
We have enjoyed our connections with you over the past years, particularly through the mutual exchanges of staff and pupils, and hope that your students and staff continue to develop their specialisms in a diverse range of anguages and countries to visit in which to practise them.
Best wishes on this momentous occasion.
a member of International Christian Charitable Fund "Hope Now", the UK
It was my privilege to be invited to First City Gymnasia. Here I met your groups of seven/eight year old children in their English class under the guidance of Olga Tarasenko. They were a bright and enthusiastic group of children and I was impressed at the level of English they had achieved at such a young age.
In addition I attended and spoke with a very confident group of 14 year olds. Such students are worthy of educational investment for their own welfare and the fortunes of their country in the wider world. The facilities of the school appeared good and the general ethos progressive.
The age range of the teaching staff was wide and some appeared so young as to be confused with senior students. Returning to the students of English I noted that many spoke with diction and clarity that is greater than some English children with whom I frequently deal.
So congratulations to staff, pupils and parents and may the rewards of such education result in the enrichment of the society into which they have been born.
Sonja Bedford and Alice Waco
Santa Rosa, California, the USA
Congratulations to First City Gymnasium and all its staff and students on the school's 13 decades of education. We and our Santa Rosa Sister City Youth Exchanges have been honored to be part of your history during two of those decades. We have experienced your staff's remarkable teamwork and dedication to mutual understanding of global issues and empowering youth to realize Ukrainians and Americans are more alike than different.
We know it has taken leadership and commitment to envision your school's program and its international outreach. You have allowed an openness and willingness to navigate this pathway. How fortunate we are to be part of this journey which started in 1989 and continues into the 21st century with youth and teacher exchanges. We know that Santa Rosa, California is not your only partner in the world. The school's many partnerships demonstrate how FCG is a model for international citizen diplomacy.
If we were to visit you in the future, we know we would experience the same warm welcome and love of the FCG family. We wish you the best in this new decade and hope that all your goals are realized.
Mike and Jolee Steinberg
Sebastopol, California, the USA
Mike and Jolee Steinberg have been aware of this wonderful school for many years. In 1989 we had the opportunity, through Mike's work as an administrator at Santa Rosa High School and a Sister Cities student exchange, to meet many students from First City Gymnasium and in 1992 to house Nadezhda Ananieva. We have kept in touch with Nadia for all these years and have even been fortunate to visit your impressive school in 2005.
We are so happy to send our congratulations on such an important occasion.
We know Nadia Ananieva has worked for the past 29 years to constantly improve and advance the school. She is so proud of this school and so are we. She has been instrumental in fostering student exchanges so students can encounter other countries and cultures, make long distance friendships, and see how important language skills are in a global society.
Cherkasy is no longer our Sister City, due to our retirement from education.
However, we were just called recently about the visit some of your students made to Santa Rosa. It is good to see that these exchanges continue.
When we visited your school, we had the opportunity to see many classrooms, the reading room/library, the auditorium, and the playroom area for younger children. We also know there is a media area, but it was summer and we were unable to visit it. We are so pleased that many efforts continue to improve the school. We are experiencing many budget problems in our country right now and appreciate how hard it is to keep schools progressing and prosperous. We applaud Nadia for all her efforts and again offer our congratulations.
Richard and Victoria Looze
Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, the USA
It is with great joy and sincerity that we extend our heartiest congratulations to First School Gymnasia on its 130th anniversary. For an institution such as First City Gymnasia to survive social and political upheavals during that time, is truly a testimony to the excellent teachers and administrators who have so competently guided the school through some difficult times.
Please allow us to note in particular the contribution made in the past thirty years by Nadia Ananieva.
Her guidance in making First School Gymnasia an internationally recognized school of excellence has been remarkable. As an honored Educator of Excellence by the American Councils, Nadia directed several highly successful student exchanges to Fort Atkinson High School, Wisconsin, USA, and was instrumental in the establishment of a sister school program between First City Gymnasia and Fort Atkinson High School.
During our visits to First City Gymnasia, we were highly impressed to observe a staff of educators completely dedicated to the welfare of their students. The Board of Directors can be proud to know that First City Gymnasia is in such competent hands.
Again, we congratulate First City Gymnasia on its 130th anniversary and are confident it will celebrate many more such milestones.
Barry and Donah Seidel
Minocqua, Wisconsin, the USA
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that we congratulate you and the entire staff of First City Gymnasium on the occasion of your 130th Anniversary! We also congratulate your students as they are the very reason for the school to exist, and it is through their hard work at their studies that the efforts of you and your staff come to fruition. When were privileged to visit your school several years ago we found the enthusiasm of the students and staff to be remarkable and your standards for education to be of the highest degree. It was very apparent to us that First City Gymnasium is truly a first class educational institution and one of the best of its kind.
What is even more remarkable is that you have accomplished this in spite of what at times seems to be very difficult and even adverse conditions. It is your spirit and hard work that has made this possible. You all have much to be proud of. You have set an example that we wish the schools in our community would follow.
You have our respect, our sincere congratulations, and our best wishes for continued success in the future.
Ivana Ottonello, Giovanna Gorziglia
Sckola Pietro Thouar, Genova, Italia
On your school’s 130th anniversary, we send our best wishes for you, for your school and students: may your work with youth be successful for ever!
Else Maj Franzel
We wish you all the best in the future and thank you for many years of correspondence via letters, mails, and personal visits.
We have been close partners at a distance and have truly enjoyed the various exchanges throughout the years.
On behalf of Hanstholm Friskole, Denmark, I send my warmest wishes to all your students and staff, may the future bring you much happiness, learning and creativity full of enthusiasm.
Olena and Oleg Rebenko
graduates of 2000 and 1986
Dear Administration, Teachers and Students of the First City Gymnasia:
It is our pleasure to congratulate all of you on the 130th Anniversary of the Gymnasia. Even decades after our graduation, FCG still lives in our hearts as the brightest star that always shines with talent, outstanding performance and enduring results.
We believe everyone will agree that time and experiences at FCG are unsurpassed, and we cannot be prouder to have been a part of the Gymnasia - the one that is so unique, culturally diverse, socially driven, and always the first one. FCG has had a huge impact on many people's lives and it is that time that we honor Gymnasia and each one of you. So, thank you for all you do to hold the school's highest reputation, your devotion to knowledge and achievement, and your dedication to excellence and high standards.
We wish you the best as you embark on your next exciting adventure in the new decade. Congratulations!
graduate of 2005
I have been studying in the First City Gymnasia for eleven years. I often think fondly of my time there; the friendships I made, growing up and, of course, learning. However, the school has played a much more important role in my life than just happy reminiscing. My education at First City Gymnasia and the support I received from teachers allowed me to pass the entrance exams and study at Dean Close School, England. This in turn led to studying a degree in History of Art (BA) at Bristol University where I am in my final year. The excellent teaching of the wide variety of English subjects including English Grammar, Language, Literature, Country Study and Economics not only gave me profound knowledge of English language but also deepened my knowledge in the history, culture, the economical and political issues as well as current affairs of the English speaking countries. However unlike most of the schools, the First City Gymnasia offered more than just teaching. It was a community of the teachers and students working together for a better school, city and country. I have many memories of the cultural events that the teachers of Ukrainian Language and Literature organized, dedicated to the famous poets and writers. My classmates and I recited their poems, analyzed their life and even reenacted some scenes from their lives. Due to the school's fantastic international contacts, I had an amazing opportunity to go on a school trip to Texas, where we lived in the lovely homes of the hosting families, who looked after us and showed us the country with great generosity. The First City Gymnasia has always been active in the community, organizing many charitable events such as the Earth's day, when the whole school cleaned the streets of Cherkasy acting as an example to follow. They also organized days for us to visit children in the orphanages to bring small gifts, talk to them and show that someone cared. I will always First City Gymnasia as the place that shaped me into the person I am today and I am sure that the school will continue to educate and inspire the children of Cherkassy who are lucky enough to go there.
Natalia Bruslanova Hertel
graduate of 1992
Dear First Schoolers!
From the bottom of my heart I wish all of you a very happy 130th anniversary! I would like to wish all of you health, fulfillment and personal strength, especially in the times of political and economic turmoil.
I will share a quote from Peter Buffett, the son of legendary investor Warren Buffett, one of the richest men on the planet - "Economic prosperity may come and go, but values are the steady currency that earn us the all-important rewards." The values he refers to are the ones he learned from his parents and teachers - trust, tolerance, belief in education, and strong work ethic - these values helped Peter work his way up in the music industry on his own.
I am certainly very proud and grateful for the strong foundation I received during my ten years at FCG. I am hopeful that the traditions of excellence and academic rigor will remain for many years to come!
Natalia S. Yereskovska
graduate of 1997
Golden Period of My Life
I still remember like yesterday: enthusiastic teachers who saw an exciting future ahead of me. They believed in me and trusted that I could reach anything I would set my mind to. They challenged me to achieve my best and to never give up. I miss this mentoring nurturing environment, and I hope to do the same for others.
Every teacher I had in the Gymnasium was exceptional, gifted, and very diligent. And I always aspired to be like them. Their thoroughness and striving for excellence on every level were striking. It was in the Gymnasium where I truly fell in love with learning and performing, which stayed with me.
As I fell in love with arts, I continued singing and even dancing when studying at the university. I sang each year at the university international festival. During Winter Olympics of 2002, I also had the privilege to sing Ukrainian songs, dance "Hopak," and even play the Ukrainian flute "sopylka." I still dream to have my own recording studio, where I could record new songs and make inspirational music videos. I recognize though, that there is time and place for everything. One of the most valuable things I learned at the Gymnasium is that we should never stop dreaming and striving to accomplish our dreams.
Many years ago I shared one dream with many other young people. It was to study overseas. Thanks to the efforts of Ms. Nadiya Vasylivna Ananieva, the Gymnasium has established numerous ties with various schools and organizations overseas, which opened so many doors to the students! It was through one of such programs, ACCELS, that I went to the US for the first time, and it changed my life for good. Some may say that this might not be beneficial to Ukraine, when good students end up leaving the country. Yet these very students build bridges, while overseas, with Ukraine.
For example, when studying and working in the US, Ukrainian students, including myself, receive numerous opportunities to strengthen Ukraine's positive image here through their daily interactions with Americans and people from other countries. And it happens on many levels, from youth to high-ranking government officials. I am confident that those from the Gymnasium, especially those who have taken Ukrainian and Ukrainian Literature from
Ms. Manuikina and Ms. Gafinova, will carry the Ukrainian culture in their hearts wherever they go. These women's great appreciation for Ukrainian language and culture is contagious, and I still feel it. When such love is burning in your heart, it becomes natural to share it with others.
My desire to help Ukraine took me not only to international festivals, but also to several organizations, where I was using my knowledge and skills to build bridges between Ukraine and the US. The US-Ukraine Foundation was one of them. Another organization was the US-Ukraine Business Council. As I joined the IMF, I must maintain neutrality, but I still enjoy sharing Ukrainian culture through music and singing.
It has been 12 years since my graduation. The best memories of the Gymnasium, however, remained. I will always remember Mr. Sylenko and Ms. Tkachenko for teaching me to expand my horizons and to strive for knowledge beyond the given study curriculum. I will also always remember Ms. Ananieva's example of perseverance and perfection in all her undertaking. Her absolute dedication to the Gymnasium and her students is exceptional and is truly amazing. The students of the Gymnasium are very lucky to study in such a school, and I hope that there will be more schools and more like this in Ukraine and in the US. I hope with all my heart that the Gymnasium will become the model of the quality education not only in Ukraine, but also worldwide.
PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Literature, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv; Journalist
That summer of 1989, right after the second year at school. I came up to my parents to let them know I was going to start my third year in another institution – The First School, then still named after Lenin. Their “Why?” was answered with “They study English there, starting from the first year, which means I’ve already lost my first two”. The whole thing sounded, as I am guessing now, rather positive, that is, no objections possibly accepted.
It was not until some time ago that my parents confessed they actually had to call bluff. I spent the first two years of schooling in a Russian language school, we only moved to Ukraine in 1985, and no one in the family freely spoke Ukrainian. The First school provided education only in Ukrainian. Therefore, the family gathering resulted in giving it a try, although with no regrets, if unsuccessful.
I remember my Dad taking me up to the school and literally pushing me into the Director’s office, the one at the ground floor (oh, I will not ever forget that one!). I remember him whispering in my ear “Just go ahead and explain why you want to study here.” I was, of course, scared to death, I never thought I would ever have to talk to the Director all by myself, plus I was only 8. But I was determined, so I had to address Kateryna Mykolayivna Kyrylova. She was rather surprised, but, reserved and calm, like a British lady (such was my memory), she asked if I had parents. Upon figuring out one of them was standing right outside her office, she gladly invited my Dad in. Then came the test – she handed me the Ukrainian ABC Book, asked me to read and retell the text. Well enough, I managed to accomplish that, as far as I remember, rather effortlessly, which came as a total surprise for my Dad who, after I left the office, had a brief conversation with Kateryna Mykolayivna. We then headed home, and I was unbelievably happy for I was to start my new year at my new school.
When I was 16 and we were celebrating our very special prom (no wonder for ‘special’, our whole class was a bunch of very special people), Kateryna Mykolayivna started her speech with a recollection of a 8-year-old knocking on the door of her office. In my memory, as well as in my parents’, this evening will forever be marked with happiness and pride for a right decision.
Another memory of the Gymnasium is at the same time sad and really joyful. My English teacher, Liudmyla Danylivna Tkachenko, was one of the first to go for an exchange stay at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA. We, fifth-graders, had no idea what the professional training and exchange trip were. All we knew was that it would have to take a lot of time. Almost a month without Liudmyla Danylivna was real tough, may the substitute teachers forgive me. I can practically picture the day she came back. We ran through the long corridor of the first floor, all the way from the 33rd room, up to the teachers’ room, until we basically bumped into Liudmyla Danylivna. Each of us tried to give her a hug. We were extremely happy – our favourite teacher was back and with tons of extraordinary stories about America. I may only hope Liudmyla Danylivna remembers this moment as well.
She came back really beautiful, even more beautiful than she used to be. She took to wearing, according to American fashion, sneakers combined with light-blue jean dresses and skirts and it suited her wonderfully. I thought to myself then, that I would definitely discover the United States myself – for the native speakers community, in the first place, but not the least, for the fashion and lifestyle. Thus, when I did come to America, first to Iowa, and then all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles, I was recollecting my child’s dreams. In a lot of respects due to my school training, no one had ever took me for a foreigner – I demonstrated wonderful pronunciation and my looks were authentic (so, the fashion does matter!)
The school added to my creativity as well. Liudmyla Ivanivna Manuikina, my wonderful class teacher, and Ukrainian language and literature instructor, encouraged me to write essays in literature. I was good at this, so I felt I had a feeling of language and a feeling of text. Later on, already a university student, I used to consult those school notes. My philological talents were duly evaluated by my university teachers and colleagues – Honoured Professor of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Kira Oleksandrivna Shakhova, whose reference for my Master’s dissertation is still a precious piece for me, one of the most talented and progressive literary critics of Ukraine, Nila Viktorivna Zborovs’ka, and professor and academician, Serhiy Mykhailovych Pryhodiy, with whom I shared an interest for comparative literary studies in American and Ukrainian literatures. The result came out to be a PhD in Comparative Literary Studies.
However, the creativity, born at school, had not been solely academic. It was in the gymnasium that I started to sing professionally. Larysa Oleksiyivna Kohut, then the supervisor of the vocal ensemble of the school, helped me to prepare for a solo performance at the contest “Zorianyi Dosh”. Finally I earned the First prize there. I was not only happy, but realized that my vocal talents could go much further. Therefore, when I stood at a big stage of ‘Chervona Ruta-2001’ Festival, I was sure I was at the right place. Later, when I performed at European Square and Maidan Nezalezhnosti as a winner of that Festival I was recollecting my first steps on this path, taken while still at the Gymnasium.
I remember how often we used to perform for important guests visiting the gymnasium on a regular basis. I recollect Nadiya Vasylivna Ananieva, the forever-in-the-position Head of the Curriculum Department of the school, a really tiny, but really active and energizing woman, entering any of the class that we were having lessons at. And that meant the class was over for me– I had to go and demonstrate, for instance, a new song, for our guests. Today, analyzing this precious experience, I understand that this was a thing that taught me to behave among very different people, with different backgrounds and of various statuses. Later it was a real help in everyday life. Namely, when I was Deputy Director for International Cooperation at the Institute of Philology, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
Today, when I have successfully defended my PhD thesis ahead of time, when I develop my career as Associate Professor at the Department of Foreign Literature at the best university of the country, when I work in different projects (writing articles for a number of Ukrainian magazines and going on with my music), I look back with a feeling of deep gratitude. This gratitude goes to my Gymnasium, where I have been taught to work hard and aspire, live actively and creatively, try my best to make world a better place, feel responsible for whatever I do, for my friends and dear ones, respect achievements of others and respect those who have made my life what it is like. First City Gymnasium gave me a Background. Here I became aware of the wonderful diversity of the world, I developed a strong desire to discover life and learn every day. This learning goes on – be it a new song in my favourite English language, a translation of a movie for ‘Molodist’ International Film Festival, or a new master’s course at the university.
I may only hope my ‘Thank you!’ is something important not only for me, but for my Gymnasium as well. I may only hope the Gymnasium stays a vibrant and creative community, and I may only wish that its students today will carry a likewise gratitude throughout their lives.
graduate of 2000
I have very fond memories of our school, the high level of English I was able to master thanks to Anatolii Volodymyrovych Stepanenko. I have also been fascinated with your sincere dedication to the school, enhancement of its great courses, attracting best educators, advocate for the progress of school’s extracurricular activities – thus, sustaining the school’s number one position among all the high schools in our region. Our First City Gymnasia is an undeniably the number one school in the city and is the only school that I would like for my niece to attend when she grows up!
I would be happy to provide you with information on my education post-First City Gymnasia and my employment within the UN system. I will outline my major steps to my employment with the UN, and detail some of the information along for your background update. Having completed Master in Philology at our Cherkassy National University, and upon my migration to the US, I have studied Political Science and Social Psychology for my US undergraduate studies at Baruch College in NYC. Consequently, I have developed a strong passion for studying further how social psychology and the power of language impact the dynamics within the international affairs complexity. The work of the UN agencies on such matters has become of an utmost interest to me.
Therefore, to obtain professional experience within the UN system has become my next goal and step after completing my undergraduate degree. I have learned that networking is the most salient part for achieving my goals and NYC is one of the best places in the world (without an exaggeration) for meeting an array of interesting and well-connected people at a variety of interesting events, relevant to my professional field of interest. However, it took me time to become comfortable with the actual concept of networking, which requires of making an effort of attending many events, developing good communication and emotional intelligence skills, as well as being tolerant and respectful of those that you might not necessarily share similar views
with, among others. Additionally, the UN HQ with their major agencies are located here in NYC, and provide an array of internship and volunteering opportunities for the young people. Thus, firstly, I have volunteered for UNICEF FUND USA as a research assistant for the development of their UNICEF TAP Project 2010. Secondly, I have become the member of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), assisting in promoting the organization of the variety of Ukrainian-related events across the NY and other states. Thirdly, I have also been the member of the U.S. – Ukraine Foundation (USUF), monitoring the U.S. Government statements and developing an analysis of the ongoing political situation in Washington pertaining to the U.S.-Ukraine relations that subsequently would become the part of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation publications.
As a result of those extracurricular activities I was successful in securing my internship with UNFPA Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office in NY, which hired me as a consultant only after a month of my internship (since 2010). I have been serving as a program associate working with technical and program teams in providing support and advice to our Country Offices on regional operational and program matters (i.e. population development, reproductive health, youth issues, HIV/AIDS, gender equality, etc.). Simultaneously, I have completed (in 2011) my Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University. As a program internship requirement, I have spent my last year’s summer in Jakarta, Indonesia, serving as a program development officer at Search for Common Ground (SFCG – a Washington DC headquartered non-governmental organization that employs employing media initiatives and works with local partners in government and civil society in conflict-torn countries, to find culturally appropriate means to strengthen societies' capacity to deal with conflicts constructively: to understand the differences and act on the commonalities).
And this summer I have been teaching an «Introduction to Conflict Resolution and Negotiation» course for high school students at Columbia University Summer High School Program. Currently, I have started another Master degree program at Columbia University, this time in International Affairs with the focus on Economic and Political Development, and professional specialization in Management and Gender Mainstreaming, and regional specialization in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Please send my best wishes and words of gratitude to the school's faculty of extraordinary teachers!
Updated at 23.06.2014