Growing up amidst war in the Ukraine helped Anna Heremes ’20 (back, left) relate to the children at Louisville’s Americana World Community Center. She completed her DFE as an aide to fifth-grade teachers working with refugee children.
(Photo: Jennifer Lance ’20)
Anna Heremes developed a love of languages while attending high school in the Ukraine. There, she added English and French to her native Ukrainian and Russian languages. Now, as an education major minoring in French, Heremes intends to teach English as a Second Language one day—or French in Canada, if it doesn’t work out in the U.S.
As a youth in Ukraine, Heremes attended a specialized school for language education while her father served in the ongoing military conflict between Ukraine and Russia. An overachiever, she was named Student of the Year in 10th grade, which led to her election as class president. That role led to her working on a youth council with the mayor. She volunteered, tutored other students in English, and founded an English conversation club that attracted 30 to 50 students each week.
“When I told my mom I was going to Berea,” Heremes recalled, “she said she was used to me not being home.”
She completed her DFE with Louisville’s Americana World Community Center, which serves immigrant and refugee communities by providing services like family counseling, youth programs, and after-school and summer programs, among many others. She joined the summer program as an aid to the fifth-grade teachers working to help refugee children keep up in their new schools.
One of the most important objectives of her internship was building close relationships with the students in order to serve as a positive role model.
“I worked in the south Louisville area,” she explained, “where a third of the population lives in poverty and half of the population consists of refugees and immigrants.”
Heremes worked with children from Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand, Syria and the Congo. Among the challenges of working with this population of children is many have recently escaped war zones and other traumatic experiences.
“A lot of those children have post-traumatic stress disorder,” Heremes said. “My main objective wasn’t really to teach them things. It was to help them find resilience and to face problems in their lives and in school.
“I had a student from Syria who was escaping war,” she continued. “I could see a lot of death in his writings. His colors were very dark, and I was concerned.”
Heremes felt connected to the children because she, too, had been affected by war.
“Right now, there’s a war in Ukraine, and my dad is in the war zone,” she said. “Because of it, my country is in crisis, and my family is suffering.”
When she saw the stories of the children at the Americana World Community Center website, she wanted to be a part of it. “It was in my heart to help those people,” she said.
Heremes learned about herself, as well, especially in regard to how an environment like that affects her physically and emotionally.
“I learned that you have to take time during the day to get yourself together, and that when you come home, you have to leave work at work,” she said. “I learned that if I don’t recharge, I won’t be able to help. My internship really put things into perspective.”