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UMKC freshman from Ukraine begins American college experience

UMKC freshman from Ukraine
Posted at 6:31 PM, Aug 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 15:41:26-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The war in Ukraine is still impacting many in our community right now.

One college student at the University of Missouri - Kansas City is watching her fellow countrymen and women fight from afar.

Olga has been studying in the U.S. since September 2021.

"I applied for a high school exchange program to do a senior year in American high school, and then I was supposed to leave at the end of the school year, but I didn’t," she said.

The Russian invasion of Olga’s native Ukraine has kept her here. She did not share her last name with KSHB 41 to protect her family’s safety there.

"Especially in the spring, no one could tell if I could return or not, but then we just realized I couldn’t," Olga said.

Now, she’s continuing her education as a freshman at UMKC.

"We do have a handful of students who are either on TPS, or applying for TPS as is this case," says Katie Sylvester, UMKC's International Student Affairs Associate Director.

TPS stands for temporary protected status, a designation given by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for 15 countries.

Ukraine is one of them, and Olga is working with her host family on TPS approval right now.

"It gives her the possibility of staying here for an additional year and a half initially, that’s something, because she was on a student travel visa," Jeph BurroughsScanlon, one of Olga's host parents, said.

That student visa expired this past summer after she finished high school. Olga is also waiting on approval of a work permit.

"It’s emotionally challenging, we want to make sure they are still able to access all the support networks they have here," Sylvester said.

Unable to currently work, Olga’s host family is asking for help to cover her expenses; from tuition, to healthcare and other costs. They’ve already raised a few thousand dollars.

"It’s hard to know and fully understand where it’s gonna go, but if it stopped right now, it’s awesome, there’s almost $6,000 we wouldn’t have been able to get from anywhere," BurroughsScanlon said.

Donations from family, friends and strangers, to help a young woman far from her home country.

"It’s still going on, it never ended," Olga says.

"Be helpful. It doesn’t have to be me, or for Olga, be helpful to somebody, somewhere," BurroughsScanlon said.

If you’d like to donate to help Olga, that GoFundMe is available here.