CCA’s young man from Moldova
TIFFIN– The Republic of Moldova, was founded on Aug. 27, 1991, after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. The small country, squeezed between Ukraine to the north, east and south, and Romania to the west has a population of just over 3.5 million.
Moldova is also home to Dan Zalucean, an exchange student attending Clear Creek Amana (CCA) high school this year. The 17-year old is a senior and is part of a U.S. State Department initiative to improve relations with former Soviet countries.
The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, through the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) program, offers scholarships to high school students between ages 15 and 17 so they may spend an academic year in the United States. According to the Bureau’s website only about one in 50 applicants is accepted.
Sherrie Lee, with the Kalona-based World Link World Changers, helps place foreign students in State Department programs. Lee explained the process as she, Zalucean and high school principal Mark Moody gave a brief presentation to the school district’s board of directors at its meeting Jan. 15.
“(World Link) does a top-notch job of placing students,” Moody said. Having the foreign students in the Clipper hallways is a win-win situation for everybody, Moody added. “We invite them to new student orientation, and we connect them with a student or two to help find their way around at the start of the year.”
Moody said the faculty and staff ask about any interests, such as fine arts or athletics, and help direct students to the appropriate venue.
“Getting involved is the key to a really successful experience,” Moody said. “We want to get them exposed to as much of the high school experience as we can.” In turn, he said, more of the CCA students have the experience of being around peers from other countries, with much different experiences.
“It was really thrilling to have a student here for you guys at CCA,” Lee told the board. Each student who applies goes through a rigorous competitive process. “While here, they are involved in service leadership training. They must be actively involved at school and give presentations to teach us about their country,” Lee said. When they return home they join alumni in various community projects and community service efforts.
Zalucean introduced himself to the board and spoke briefly about Moldova. He is one of three exchange students in the high school this year. Moody said the district has a 1:150 ratio, which allows the school to have up to three per year. Sweden’s Albin Larrsson Forsberg and Italy’s Cecilla Attalla are the other two exchange students at CCA this year.
Zalucean is staying with a family in Tiffin and has volunteered at a youth wrestling tournament and with a local food pantry. He just finished a season with the Clipper varsity wrestling team, wrestling at 145-pounds, and in the spring, he hopes to be on the soccer team.
“I’m really thankful for you guys and everybody here at CCA for welcoming me here and giving me the opportunity to serve here,” Zalucean told the board members. While taking some questions from the board, he said he liked CCA better than his home school. “Every teacher (here) makes the class so enjoyable, and we can learn easier.” Zalucean said he eventually wants to be a dentist, and hopes to practice in the United States.
For now though, he’s right at home alongside his American cohorts slogging through to graduation in May. And he’s enjoying the ride.
“I love this school!” he said.