Usually Westmont High School’s afternoon assemblies are a bit more hyped and light but the mood last week matched the seriousness of the situation. Westmont High School planned an Assembly to raise awareness about the crisis in Ukraine and many students wore blue and yellow in support. Larissa Zelisko, a counselor at Westmont High School led students to share with the student body, “Staff and students directly impacted by the crisis shared historical information, current news updates, as well as personal perspectives from their family members in Ukraine. Students also started a fundraising campaign through the National Honors Society and shared information about online petitions as well as in person protests in Chicago.” Principal Jack Balderman welcomed everyone, “as we become more educated about the situation the better off we will all be as a society.” Ms. Zelisko thanked everyone, “many students have been asking a lot of questions and we appreciate you. I am 100% Ukrainian and I have family members there and each student sharing today has a personal connection to Ukraine.” All the presenters were wearing shirts with traditional embroidery called vyshyvka.
Five Westmont students shared a brief history of Ukraine and then personal stories and images of their connection to Ukraine and the people there. There are 25 states called oblasts in Ukraine and 44 million people live there. Ukraine is one of the largest grain exporters in the world, which is why it’s called the “Breadbasket of Europe.” They also shared a bit about the history of the region and Peter Landreth, a Social Studies teacher at WHS helped students understand how this crisis affects us all. Then each student shared about their personal story and connection to Ukraine.
Natasha Shamarina-Ege shared, “I could never have imagined that what is happening in Ukraine right now would be a reality. I spent three years of my childhood in this beautiful country and many summers visiting there. Ukraine contributed to much of my development as a person and holds a fundamental place in my heart.”
Paul Tikhiy shared “I have several family members that are living in Ukraine even as the war is going on. Some have escaped to Poland where it’s safer, but others have decided to stay with their country and fight for it. I have relatives that are defending their homes within 10 miles of the bombings near Kyiv, hiding in bunkers and fighting on the front lines. They are all doing this to support their country and the people who live in it.”
Dasha Savchuk shared pictures of her family members hiding in an empty swimming pool, “I have over 20 immediate family members including family who have a US passport and ones who don’t. None of them are able to get out. Many aren’t able to get to bomb shelthers so they have to make do with what they have, including living in pools and praying for hope. My family’s church is trying to help out anyone they can, taking in anyone who needs help: injured, pregnant, or parentless.”
Roman Hospondarsky said, “One of my aunts lives in Ireland, which is accepting Ukrainian refugees without visas. If things continue to get worse, we might have to leave everything. We were also planning on visiting for the first time this summer; sadly we won’t.”
Severin Vorotnjak shared pictures of his family at a protest in Chicago the past weekend and shared, “My family is safe and is not in direct danger. I am also optimistic for the future of Ukraine as we are confident our soldiers will pull through.”
They encouraged the students to get involved- protests in Chicago and giving to support those in crisis: National Honor Society will be collecting donations for the Ukrainian
Congress Committee of America (UCCA). UCCA is collecting money to send medical kits and pharmaceutical kits directly to Ukraine.
Please donate cash or submit a check made out to“Westmont High School” to NHS. Donations will be collected the rest of this week during student lunch periods.
This assembly was an opportunity to educate and allow students to be challenged to think through current world events and react with compassion and care for others including their fellow students.
Ms. Zelisko shares, “I am so proud of our students who presented. I am also proud of our entire school community for coming together for this assembly and showing their support by wearing blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The fundraising efforts of the National Honor Society will undoubtedly make a difference in the lives of the people of Ukraine.”
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