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Eastern Europe links exec, exchange student
by Noreen Cochran
April 17, 2013 12:38 PM | 1955 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Valeriya Savchenko, Cheryl and Jim Magoon.
Valeriya Savchenko, Cheryl and Jim Magoon.
Jim and Cheryl Magoon had their first experience with raising a teenager when Ukrainian exchange student Valeriya Savchenko arrived in August to spend her junior year at Dunwoody High School.

“When Cheryl and I first walked into this, all our friends said, ‘You are going to knowingly invite a 16-year-old teenager to your house? Are you nuts?’ I have learned what they meant by that,” Magoon said.

It meant studying, social life and social media, but the host said he would not have it any other way.

“She’s a wonderful kid. She’s a smart girl. She’s at the very top of her class,” Magoon said.

The retired nuclear engineer said Savchenko aced her math and science courses.

“They kept putting her into lower-level math classes. She wasn’t there a couple days and the teachers said she belongs in the senior advanced class,” Magoon said. “In science, she was helping the teacher give instruction in calculus and physics.”

Savchenko’s straight A’s are typical of the exchange students recruited by the World Heritage Organization, he said.

“These are probably the best students in their country that are selected to come over here. They’re projected to become leaders,” Magoon said. “It helps them to see America, go back home and improve life in those countries.”

Years ago, he helped improve life in the Ukraine by joining the MBA Enterprise Corp., putting his master’s degree to use during a one-year rotation.

“It’s like a Peace Corps for people with advanced degrees in business,” Magoon said.

When the exchange student organization sent out a call for volunteers, he realized it was payback time.

“The caveat was, the student has to come from the Ukraine,” Magoon said. “The people were so nice to me, this is a way of giving back, if you will, by hosting one of their people.”

Savchenko, who leaves May 29, said she will miss the Americans who took her under their wing.

“Now, that I have only two months left, I really want the clocks to stop because whatever happened, I always had my host family,” she said in a statement. “I could never wish for better people to spend this time with.”

Savchenko encouraged other families to open their doors.

“I believe that hosting a foreign exchange student isn’t easy, but it’s a friendship that will be there forever and your memories will last for a lifetime,” she said.


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