When Rina, from South Korea, arrived in Illinois in August 2022, she was only 14 years old.  As a freshman in a high school in Providence, she was excited about her school year here in America.

Rina enjoyed her Freshman year immensely, and over time she grew very close to her host family. Rina shares, “I sincerely appreciate my host family. They treat me like a family member, and we spend a lot of time together. I love making jokes with them. We make fun of each other and laugh a lot!”

Her host mother, Kelly, shares that Rina first came into their family as a quiet and reserved young lady.  “Over time, she became more and more comfortable being herself – showing her sense of humor, playing the piano, helping the family with chores, joining us for family events, and becoming the boys #1 hockey fan.”

“Rina has been a wonderful addition to our family, and we have built a loving, life-long relationship with her,” shares Kelly.

“My host brothers, Andrew and Matthew, both play hockey,” share Rina. “I am not athletic nor into sports at all, and I disliked going to sports games. However, Kelly invited me to go to each of their hockey games, and it was the best experience ever! The players were moving extremely fast, skating on ice, passing a puck to each other, and shooting it to the goalie. Since then, I have attended almost all of their hockey games. I am currently watching the NHL playoffs with them, and hockey is my favorite sport. I also went to a Blackhawk’s game with them!”

In addition to bonding with her host family, Rina made many friends during her freshman year and enjoyed her courses and participating in school activities.

Rina especially enjoys and looks forward to attending her math courses. Even before coming to America, math was always her favorite subject.

“I have always purely enjoyed the satisfying feeling I received whenever I solved complicated math problems, as I acknowledged I had put my efforts into them. I especially prefer Algebra and Calculus.”

Her passion for math led Rina to enter the state math competition, the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) State Finals Mathematics Contest. “I practiced during my school year with the high school math team every week with practice tests and competition simulations. Constant practice helped me a lot because I work hard to get everything right!”

The intense practice paid off.  Rina’s high school earned a spot in the Top 10, and Rina was a key contributor. 

“I won the individual competition 1st place, and we won 1st place in team competition!” Rina says proudly.

At the end of the school year, Rina was pleased to discover that she was the recipient of The Michael Sullivan Family Foundation Scholarship which included full payment of her 2023-24 tuition.

“Every student who received a B grade or higher in honors or AP mathematical classes since their freshmen year qualified to apply. Even though I am not aware of the exact number of applicants, many students applied for it. The application required an essay asking how one will utilize mathematical skills in a future career and a proper resume. I was the only recipient and received full tuition for my senior year in high school. Since I was accepted on a scholarship, I have tutored high school students in math,” Rina explains. She continues:

“I genuinely thought I would not get it because there were so many excellent students who applied. I was hesitant to apply at first because I thought it was a small chance that I would get it.  With my host mom’s encouragement, I applied and won the scholarship. I am so grateful that I got the scholarship for math, which is my favorite subject.”

This year, Rina returned to the same high school as a Sophomore and is now 15 years old. She is staying with the same host family and her passion for math hasn’t faded a bit! She shares, “After taking AP Calculus BC last year, the only math class left for me was AP Statistics, and I am taking it. It is different from BC and still engaging in different ways, such as reading statistics and analyzing the data, which are practical skills closely related to other subjects.”

Rina reflects on plans for her future:

“Before coming to U.S., I had never seen my future living in here, going to college, or permanently living here. Now, I want to attend University here and possibly live here, moving around the states. My goals are to major in Chemistry in a university, step through pre-med courses, attend medical school, and work in the medical field.” 

Kelly and John close with the following message to Rina:

“Rina, you are hyper-focused, driven, ambitious, and incredibly thoughtful. You have an exceptional sense of humor, and you are now part of our clan! We are all better people because you have come into our lives. You have been a tremendous gift to our family. We enjoy sharing our love and home, learning from each other, and giving you a safe environment to be yourself.  We look forward to another year with you and are excited for your future!”

Written by Flo Webb; Edited by Lauren Lunt

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