Ukraine native wins Exchange Club contest on ‘What America means to me’

5 fourth-grade students, teachers win $50

Five young students were honored by the Exchange Club of Tuscaloosa for winning the club’s annual essay competition.

Thursday, the fourth-graders from Tuscaloosa Magnet, Woodland Forrest and Verner Elementary confidently read their essays about what America means to them.

Exchange Club of Tuscaloosa Youth Committee Chair Betsy Jarnigan said this year’s essays were interesting, especially since one was written by a girl from Ukraine who moved here two years ago.

“I’m so proud of them. I am always excited to hear their essays, and this year we had a winner from Ukraine,” Jarnigan said. “So that was interesting to hear her story about how she had left Ukraine and what the difference is between the Ukrainian food and American food in the school system.”

Anita Kyselova, a native of Ukraine, had the winning essay. She said her favorite thing about the U.S. is education.

“I think it’s school because I learn more. I like to learn and my favorite subject in school is math,” Anita said.

In her essay, Anita joked about the bad cafeteria food at her school in Ukraine. She said the Ukrainian school served boring soups, which made the exchange club laugh. Anita said she loves both the food and friends at her new school.

“I really like my friends because they are so kind and nice, and the food in the cafeteria is so yummy,” Anita said.

Students had to write the essays without the help of their parents or teachers. Eleven students entered the competition. A panel of judges chose their five favorite essays.

Anita’s mom Anna is happy that Anita had this opportunity.

“She did it all by herself. That’s why it is a little bit funny maybe in some parts, but still this is what she thinks. I’m really proud she had this opportunity to present her essay,” Anna said.

Both the exchange club and parents said they are proud of these students’ work. Essays like these give parents and teacher hope for future generations.

“It’s always interesting because it’s been several years since I’ve been in fourth grade,” Jarnigan said. “But one of my judges told me it renews his faith in the next generation. And, I totally agree.”

Anna said she is especially grateful for Anita’s teacher.

“We would like to thank our teacher, Miss Simmons, who is encouraging Anita all the time, and helping her to accommodate and to feel welcome in school,” Anna said. “This is very important for us. Thank you.”

Each student and teacher received a $50 Visa gift card. Students also received certificates for their achievement.

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