Foreign exchange student from Ukraine to graduate from Vienna High School
VIENNA, Ill. (KBSI) – A foreign exchange student from Ukraine is set to graduate from Vienna High School.
Mark Sharovarov started school at Vienna High School in August 2021 along with several other exchange students from various countries.
Usually exchange students participate in the exchange program for one school year. However, it turned to two years for Mark and he is now graduating high school with the Class of 2023.
Host family Don and Carol Stockdale, lifetime Johnson County residents, welcomed Mark into their home during his first year of exchange.
Mark made friends and participated in the school’s cross-country team. In February of 2022, Mark’s home country experienced a military invasion during the rapid escalation of the Russian Ukrainian War.
Vienna has hosted numerous exchange students throughout its history, but this was a new experience for everyone involved. The Stockdale’s stayed in close contact with the school, Mark’s family, and the Program of Academic Exchange (PAX), which is designated by the U.S. Department of State as an exchange visitor program sponsor.
“There were many unknowns and sleepless nights for everyone involved,” said Don Stockdale. “With the time change, Mark was up all night attempting to keep in contact with family and friends in Ukraine. Carol and I did our best to support him, but it was still difficult to know what to do with all of the unknowns.”
“It was heart-wrenching to know what was going on and to think that Mark might be sent back into the war-torn country,” said Carol Stockdale. “In all actuality, we didn’t even know how he would get back to Ukraine at that time.”
Before Mark’s scheduled departure date, the United States government entered into an agreement with Ukraine that allowed Ukrainian exchange students to remain in the U.S. That opened the door for Mark to remain for an additional year.
“Mr. Stockdale called and shared that Mark was going to be able to stay for the coming school year, and I was elated,” said School Superintendent Joshua Stafford. “We then talked about school details and ensured that those were worked out; however, the thing that stuck out to me most during that call was when I asked Don if we would need to help Mark find another host family since the Stockdale’s had only committed to one year. Don’s immediate response was that Mark had a home with them as long as he needed it. It was one of those moments when you just become flooded with emotions and don’t know how to respond.”
Mark’s mother traveled to Illinois to attend his graduation. However, Mark’s father could not make the trip because all Ukrainian men are required to stay in Ukraine as a result of the war. Maryna Sharovarova arrived stateside on Monday, May 15. That gave her time to attend her son’s graduation on Friday, May 19. Mark will speak at graduation as a result of his being one of the class salutatorians.
Mark has been admitted to Murray State University where he plans to major in computer science.
The Vienna High School graduation is Friday, May 19 at 6 p.m. at 601 North First Street in Vienna.