Mansfield Hosts 3 Russian Students to Share American Culture

Because Allies in Youth Development partnered with the district, three Russian students: junior Elizaveta Lugovaya, sophomore Pavel Sterlyagov and junior Aleksandr Kurbatov visited the school April 17 to May 1 to experience American culture.

“One of our area leaders has a tutoring program for students and wanted to bring some of his English learners to the US,” Allies in Youth Development Vietnam Director and Executive Assistant Frederick Tran said. “For a short periods, the students would be able to compare and contrast the life of a student in Russia and in America.”

Principal Jennifer Young asked Assessment and Instructional Specialist Michelle Dudley and Assistant Principal Stephanie Martinez to create a schedule and assign the Russian students to student leaders from the Tiger Ambassador program and teachers.

“It was kind of rough at first.” Martinez said. “Because they are on a totally different education system, we scheduled them to go to electives. Then they asked us if we could take them to some advanced math and science classes. We decided to get them with one student each and they would go through their whole day with them.”

The Tiger Ambassador mentors helped the Russian students navigate the school and communicate with others.

“They learned English and everything about America from a point of view from not living here,” Tiger Ambassador and junior Taylor Griffis said. “So things we say and things we do, they sometimes don’t really understand. We’ll talk about things like a field trip everyone knows about, but explain and help them understand what we are talking about.”

Elizaveta said there are many differences between here and Russia as people are more outgoing and schools offer elective courses.

“This is a great opportunity to see the life from the inside, not as a tourist,” Elizaveta said. “This school can help you with college and picking out further studies. It’s amazing because you do not feel lost.”

Because the foreign students visited teacher Felecia Ford’s classroom, Ford said her class was curious and excited as they asked many questions.

“I love (the program),” Ford said. “I think it brings a new perspective on a lot of things, new ideas for our students to see on how to do different things and for them to realize not everything is just like it is here.”

Martinez hosted foreign-exchange students before, but never heard of them only visiting for a few weeks.

“I hope now that we have a system on how to do it, it’s something we will do next year,” she said. “Maybe we can add it to the Tiger Ambassadors’ responsibility if we continue to do this program.”

At the end of the day, the Ambassadors brought both the Russian and American students together to debrief and talk about their day.

“I think it is good for our kids to experience different cultures and to get to know them,” Dudley said. “It lets our kids see it is possible to jump and take risks. It may encourage them to go look at other schools and open their eyes to things they may have not thought as a possibility.”