More than 20% of Upper School Russian Students Earn Prestigious U.S. Government-Sponsored Scholarships for Intensive Summer Immersion Study of Russian

More than 20% of Upper School Russian Students Earn Prestigious U.S. Government-Sponsored Scholarships for Intensive Summer Immersion Study of Russian

Seven Upper School students were selected to participate in three exciting fully-funded intensive Russian language and culture immersion programs this summer.

Nicholas Brazhnikov '26, Penelope Caffo '25, and Sasha Rosenthal '26 will head off to their Russian STARTALK three-week residential full-immersion Russian language camp at the University of Oklahoma City.

Ellisah Catten '27, Amira Dancer '26, and Alexander Kulikovsky '27 have been selected to be our 2024 Friends School Pushkin Scholars. They are headed off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to participate in the Pushkin Summer Institute, an exciting intensive five-week Russian language and culture program on the UW-Madison campus. This program is intended to diversify the field by promoting enthusiasm for the study of Russian among exceptional students who are nationally under-represented in the study of Russian.

Finally, Hannah Pangaribuan '26, alumna of the 2023 Pushkin Summer Institute, is a recipient of the prestigious National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) summer study scholarship. She will participate in a six-week program based in Almaty, Kazakhstan. NSLI-Y programs include intensive language study, a homestay with a Russian-speaking family, and cultural excursions.

Russian is one of eight languages identified by the U.S. government as most needed and lacking for U.S. security. Consequently, there is significant funding to support the study of Russian. STARTALK is funded by the National Security Agency. The NSLI-Y program is funded by the U.S. State Department. The Pushkin Summer Institute is funded jointly by the U.S. Russia Foundation (USRF), the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Friends School.

Friends School’s Russian language program dates back to 1956 – one year before Russia launched Sputnik – when history teacher and self-taught Russian speaker Claire Walker began teaching students the then-“forbidden” language; at the time, the School was one of only 16 U.S. high schools, public or private, to offer Russian. Since then, Friends students have consistently distinguished themselves in the U.S. and abroad in the study of Russian language and culture, earning annual awards in state and national contests and frequent selection by the American Councils of Teachers of Russian to represent the United States on the U.S. delegation to the International Olympiada in Moscow.

Nine Friends students have received full-year scholarships since 2009, and almost 70 have been awarded summer scholarships for intensive study of Russian in the U.S. or abroad.

Friends School's Russian faculty are professionally active on the national level. Nathan Leach '14, who returned this year to their alma mater to teach Middle School Russian, was honored with admission to the AATSEEL K-12 Teacher Excellence Program. Upper School Russian teacher Lee Roby was recently elected as Vice President of the American Councils of Teachers of Russian. She has been nationally recognized twice in recent years for her contributions to the field of pre-college Russian teaching: first in the receipt of the Indiana University Russian and East European Institute 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award and in February 2023 with the American Association Teachers of Slavic and European European Languages 2022 Outstanding Service to AATSEEL Award.  

Pictured above: Alexander Kulikovsky '27, Sasha Rosenthal '26, Penelope Caffo '25, Nicholas Brazhnikov '26, Hannah Pangaribuan '26, Amira Dancer '26,
Ellisah Catten '27.