2012-06-07 / Schools
Grad’s journey began in Russian orphanage
Her father died when she was 3, and the Russian girl was left alone with a mother who was unable to care for her. When Galina was 7, she was found by the Russian police wandering alone in a Karaganda marketplace, suffering from abuse and neglect. She was taken to a shelter and placed in an orphanage.
“Karaganda was a difficult place. Prostitution, drugs and alcoholism were common. It was violent; my mom was murdered while I was in the orphanage,” Galina, 18, wrote in a college essay.
On May 31, Galina was one of 194 students to graduate from Oaks Christian High School.
“Galina is just incredibly selfdriven,” said her adoptive mother, Tammy Carson.
Before she arrived in the U.S., Galina had not had adequate schooling. She was developmentally delayed socially and emotionally.
But in eight years she adjusted to a new family, culture and language. She also discovered God and thrived in a school filled with high achievers.
Galina first came to America in 2003 to visit Daniel and Tammy Carson through a six-week Summer Miracles Program sponsored by Kidsave International, an organization that seeks to find homes for older orphaned children from throughout the world.
Her enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and personality mesmerized the Carsons, who immediately began efforts to adopt Galina.
It took nine months before the adoption was final. During that time, the Carsons visited Galina in Kazakhstan twice before they were able to bring the 10-year-old girl home for good.
“Her determination was probably something I’ve never seen in a kid even to this day,” said George Hees, a fifth-grade teacher at Round Meadows Elementary who mentored Galina during her first year in the U.S. and recommended she attend Oaks Christian because she would benefit from the small class size and caring environment.
“The potential in her was just through the roof. I knew when she learned English that she would shine,” said Hees, who also coaches girls’ volleyball at Oaks.
Galina made big strides in middle and high school.
“I’m very proud of her. There was no doubt in my mind that she would do this well. Some kids you know are going to do amazing things, and she’s definitely one of them,” Hees said.
Galina said Hees, her adoptive parents and teachers at Oaks Christian created an array of opportunities for her. They also inspired her to have faith in God, which allowed her to reconcile with her past.
“Everything happens for a reason and that gives me hope and peace. If something was changed about my past at all, I wouldn’t be here. I’m grateful for what happened because of God. He made it all work,” she said.
A natural leader
At Oaks Christian, Galina took Advanced Placement English composition and was an honors student in English, Spanish, chemistry, anatomy and physiology. She also participated in drama, swimming and cheerleading.
“Clearly God had his hand in Galina’s story,” said Daniel Carson, adding that he and his wife were initially worried the academic demands at Oaks Christian School would be too much for Galina, who barely spoke English when she began sixth grade.
But Galina’s competitive nature and upbeat personality proved to be an asset. Although she didn’t do well on the entrance tests, leaders at the local private school took a chance on Galina because they saw her potential.
In her senior year, Galina took up piano and was co-editor of the Oaks Christian yearbook committee. She recently went on a mission trip to Romania to visit orphanages, distribute food in a few neighborhoods and refurbish a Christian summer camp.
Her favorite subject in school was history because the curriculum taught her to understand the past and how it affects today’s society.
Galina said her childhood experiences broadened her outlook about life and other people. Instead of judging why people say what they say and act the way they do, she tries to understand their perspective, realizing that everyone is influenced by a different personal story.
An entrepreneur at heart, Galina will attend Pepperdine University and study business administration. She hopes to turn her love for shopping, photography and graphic arts into a career in the world of fashion.
“I want to succeed and do well because I want to make my parents proud,” she said.
Graduates from Oaks Christian’s Class of 2012 will attend 80 universities in 29 different states.
Brian Pugh is valedictorian, and Alexander Vega is salutatorian.
A National Merit Scholar finalist, Brian has been on the National Honor Society since his junior year and an OCS Top Ten Scholar throughout high school. The math enthusiast, who enjoys solving complex problems, won several mathematics awards.
He served two years as class president, one year as vice president and was head prefect this year. In sports, he has been a top competitor on the Oaks tennis team.
Brian, who also enjoys photography, jazz and rock climbing, will attend University of California, Berkeley to pursue a degree in computer engineering.