Catawba College senior Anastasia Barkova of Belarus had "the best summer of her life" last summer thanks to the generosity of some Salisbury donors. The 22-year-old was one of 400 students from across the United States who completed two-month programs in Washington, D.C., offered through Georgetown University's The Fund for American Studies (TFAS).
Barkova chose to participate in the Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Services, one of the program tracks offered by TFAS, and says her experience was one that she will not soon forget. She shared her experience with her donors during a small luncheon held recently on campus. Her summer came to life for her listeners as they viewed a power point presentation and heard her recollections.
While in D.C., Barkova interned at a non-profit organization, Iona Senior Services, which offers care for clients with aging or dementia issues. She worked in the development office of that organization, specifically on marketing. She also interacted on a daily basis with 30 to 35 elderly clients who attended a daycare for the elderly offered onsite at Iona Senior Services. Interacting with the clients, Barkova said, made her feel like she was making a difference in their lives.
While her internship took up much of her time — 9-3 every day, classes from Georgetown University occupied her between 4 and 7 p.m. weekdays. She took one class on Ethics and Values and another on Voluntary Associations, where she studied the different aspects of why people give back. One of the tomes she read and studied in her Voluntary Associations class was Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America." Coming from Belarus, where much of the dictatorship is still present today, this class gave Barkova new insight into the democratic history of America.
As a project for her summer program, Barkova and other students worked to get donations for a silent auction staged during the program's alumni reunion. Businesses made donations, and the overall $3,200 was raised to give to a nonprofit group in D.C. that had applied to be the beneficiary of the event. The non-profit, Capital Partners for Education, was selected from those applicants.
Barkova's internship also gave her an up close and personal glimpse into the sights and sounds of the U.S. capital. She noted that she spent the little free time she had there visiting monuments and museums. She said the experience gave her a greater understanding of why "all of those monuments are important." "Now I know 'why' D.C.," she quipped.
Barkova's introduction to the United States began in 2000, when at age 10 she came to the Lake Norman area with a local mission group called Lake Norman Children's Relief. Many of the children that were admitted into the program facilitated by Lake Norman Children's Relief had difficult situations to face in their lives. The issues associated with most of the children ranged from economic to medical to emotional. In addition to having some of the issues mentioned, some of the children were orphans. Despite having a family in Belarus, Barkova's life there was difficult due to economic and familial issues. "A lot of people have a lot of touching stories, I'm not the only one," Barkova admonished as she briefed the donors who had made her summer internship possible.
During that first summer in the United States, Barkova was placed with a wonderful American host family, Amy and Wesley Goodrum of Huntersville. It was a match that seemed meant to be. For the next five years, Barkova returned to the States and the Goodrums each summer, falling in love with both the country and the family. In 2005, she moved to the States, to live with the Goodrums and finish high school. Despite studying in her second language, she graduated from Southlake Christian Academy in 2008 and then "started making plans to go to college." Barkova says that she is forever thankful to the Goodrums for changing her life.
After looking at several colleges, Barkova chose Catawba. While a student, she has been very active in the life of the campus, working as a resident assistant, participating in Wigwam Productions, Volunteer Catawba and the Leadership Corps, and Phi Beta Lamdba (PBL). She is well known on campus for her role in the annual Harvest Moon Ball event that involves college students spending an evening with residents of Trinity Oaks Retirement Home.
In May of 2011, she will graduate in just three years with a degree in business administration and an economics minor, and a track record of good grades that landed her regularly on the Dean's List. After graduation, she will have a year to figure out what she wants to do before her Visa expires.
"I'm not in control," Barkova explained of her Visa situation, "others are, but I would like to move to D.C. and hopefully find a non-profit to work for. It's a big plan, but I think it's a good plan."
Paul Fisher, chairman of the Catawba College Board of Trustees and one of the donors who made Barkova's internship last summer possible, spoke for his fellow donors at the luncheon and said to Barkova: "We made an investment in you and we have received a huge return on our investment. We need more young people like you."
Other donors who made personal contributions to make Barkova's summer internship possible include Catawba College trustees Tom Smith, Jim Hurley, Ralph Ketner and Martha West, along with college employees, Tom Childress, Ken Clapp and Chuck Williams.