High school senior takes charge in effort to aid Kenya students

April 11, 2001|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Hammond High School senior Anya Makarova demonstrates insight and maturity well beyond her 17 years. The Russian-born student traveled to the United States from Moscow 2 1/2 years ago, bringing a deep, lifelong commitment to help those less fortunate.

"In Russia there is a lot of poverty, a lot of poor people," said the soft-spoken teen-ager.

"Putting money into needy hands will not solve the problem of poverty," she added. "It is a very complex and multidimensional problem."

Acting on her commitment, Makarova applied to the Gifted and Talented Mentor Program, which provides internships for Howard County high school students interested in gaining firsthand experience in a career. She requested a position in a humanitarian organization and was placed with the Central Maryland chapter of the American Red Cross.

She was put to work assisting with "Maryland to Kenya: School Chest Initiative," a statewide Red Cross effort in partnership with the State Department of Education -- collecting and providing school supplies to children in Kenya schools who suffer from the aftermath of a major drought.

Gifted-education specialist Debby Messer noted Makarova's strong moral compass and desire to serve. "I was very impressed with her integrity and commitment to humanitarianism," said Messer.

Makarova went above and beyond what an intern typically does, taking on the project herself and making things happen, Red Cross supervisor Bill Clarke said. Since beginning the internship in the fall, she helped design the information packet sent to schools about the project, which included facts on Kenya and guiding questions to promote learning and discussion.

About 170 chests -- 50-gallon storage tubs filled with school supplies costing about $315 each -- have been received by the Red Cross statewide, with more trickling in since last month's deadline. Howard County is one of the state's top contributors, filling more than 30 chests -- six of which are from Hammond High.

Makarova will attend a Red Cross convention next month to help Clarke discuss the school chest and other international projects. She will present her work at the Howard County Public Schools Student Learning Conference on May 4, and plans to write an assessment of the project.

"I think this was a great experience for me. I got a vision of what I want to do when I grow up," Makarova said.

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