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School fundraises to keep Ukrainian student in Colorado

When Iryna Petrovitska came to Colorado, she didn’t expect a war to start in her home country. Now her school is raising money to continue her education in the U.S.

FRISCO, Colo. — She came from across the world to attend high school in Colorado.
And halfway through her sophomore year, a war started in her home country of Ukraine.

Now her school community is trying to support 15-year old Iryna Petrovitska, and help her stay in the U.S. to finish high school.

 “The United States was my dream since 8th grade,” said the sophomore at The Peak School in Frisco. “New adventure, new experience, new friends and people, new culture and language.”

Iryna arrived at the start of the school year in September. Months later, in February, Russia invaded Ukraine. Her family in Kiev had to shelter, then flee the country.

“My [family members] are in Hungary now. We have friend still [in Ukraine],” she said.

“I think its really bad back home. My mother send me a lot of videos where my town is on fire and all this stuff. Ashes in the air, dead bodies in the street.”

Halfway across the world, Iryna could only watch from a screen.

I felt guilty that my friends and parents were  there, my pets are there. I’m in different hemisphere and a safe place. And I felt really, really bad. I want to do something to help. But I didn’t know what should I do,” she said.

“Somehow she comes into this building every day with a smile,” said Steven Craig, one of the leaders and educators at The Peak School. “She truly is the bravest person I think I’ve ever met.”

Credit: Iryna Petrovitska

Of all the kids he's ever taught, Craig says Iryna's resiliency is remarkable.
But war now threatens her dream of continuing her U.S. education.

“Her uncle is an amazing human being, he has been her source of financial support. He did so through a business that’s no longer viable now that war has started,” Craig said. “When the war started, he contacted us to ask what we can do to help. He wanted to keep her here, Iryna wanted to stay, we wanted to keep her here at all costs. Whatever it took – we were committed to keeping her here.”

Craig and the school community started an online fundraiser though GoFundMe to help support Iryna, and fund her continued education and living situation in Colorado.

“There's living expenses, food, school supplies, tuition,” Craig listed. “All those things, which her uncle was able to pay for before the war, were suddenly up in the air. And we needed to do whatever we could to try to raise the funds to make that happen and be able to keep her here.”

War is an unfair burden for a teenager to shoulder. Iryna's Colorado community hopes to keep her dream alive.

“People here are really supportive and really nice and they have their own problems and they try to help others and I really appreciate it,” she said.

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