High school starting advanced Russian course to promote acceptance

Boca Raton High School principal noticed need for enhanced communication and feeling of acceptance
Posted at 9:19 AM, Mar 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-27 12:22:28-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — The invasion of Ukraine has many ripple effects we might not consider, like a number of students from both the countries of Ukraine and Russia who've gotten out of the war zone to begin a new chapter in the United States.

Boca Raton High School is the new school home for a number of these students, and the school is starting something new to help them feel more at-home, safe and accepted.

Deciphering Shakespeare can be difficult at face-value, but when English is not your first or second language, it can be especially tough. "Yes, that's very hard," Illia Golotiuk said. He's from Ukraine and has been in the U.S. for eight months. "I used to dream about living here," he said.

Golotiuk is one of six Ukrainian students at Boca Raton High School. Fourty-one are from Russia.

"The main challenge is my English," Golotiuk said.

Despite what he'll tell you, Golotiuk is great at communicating in English, but we are learning from the principal, Dr. Suzanne King, other students are struggling.

"I had to stop to ask a few students questions, and it only took me a moment to realize they didn't know what I was asking them," King said. "For me, it's a moment in time, but for them, it's all day. So, how can we make them feel comfortable all day?"

With input from other school staff, they came up with the idea for an advanced Russian course for the next school year. "That would give students a safe spot where they can speak their language and speak to others in their same language too," King said.

"They are so smart," Albina Preys said.

She's from Russia and just certified to teach the new course. She's worked as a Russian language facilitator for several years on campus.

"She helped me to feel more comfortable," Golotiuk said.

"I love them," Preys said. "When war first started, it was the most difficult time. Now, I don't know. We've somehow adjusted."

Just like the twists and turns and drama in studying Macbeth, Golotiuk said he's appreciating his path and the small acts of kindness he's experiencing along the way. "Teachers are nice. People are nice. They support Ukraine, and I'm thankful for that," Golotiuk said.

King said they plan to expand new courses beyond advanced Russian in the coming years to include Russian 1 for beginners.

"The more we can understand other people, the more acceptance we have in the world," King said.