Many people talk about the winding paths of their educational journeys, but for Russian-born Yulia Vozzhaeva, her educational journey was a literal one that crossed nine time zones and about 5,000 miles.
In the summer of 2011, Vozzhaeva emigrated from Siberia, Russia to the Outer Banks where she was working as a cashier at Harris Teeter. She had never even heard of College of The Albemarle until she learned about it from some of the school’s international students.
Little did she know, her educational journey was about to start at the local community college, and would propel her to the next stop on her trip: Yale University.
Currently, the academic all-star is on a full academic scholarship at Yale where she is studying Germanic Languages and Literature. She graduated from COA last spring with her Associate’s Degree in Arts and a perfect 4.0 GPA.
Steve Woodburn, vice president of student success and enrollment at COA, said Vozzhaeva capitalized on every opportunity she came across during her two years as a student and was always looking for an opportunity to learn.
Her ambition has singled her out as COA’s nominee for The Dallas Herrin Achievement Award. The statewide award is named after one of the founding fathers of the state’s community colleges who believed the schools should take people where they are and carry them as far as they can go. Vozzhaeva, Woodburn said, embodies this philosophy.
“Literally and figuratively she fits that mold,” Woodburn said. “You’re talking about someone who came from Siberia, Russia to the Outer Banks. I can’t even imagine the transition that must have been. I can’t imagine the struggles of the people of Siberia and she’s coming here and helping people with their struggles here. It’s just a phenomenal story.”
In addition to maintaining top grades during her two years on COA’s Dare campus, the 25-year-old Vozzhaeva was also was a tireless volunteer in the local community. She taught Russian to students at Water’s Edge Village School in Corolla and volunteered with Corolla Fire and Rescue and Ruthie’s Community Kitchen. She also organized an event to help local businesses in Manteo clean up after Hurricane Irene hit the Outer Banks in October 2012, and started a new campus club, the International Club, which organized more than 30 community service and cultural events under her leadership. The group also raised $13,000 which was donated to help rebuild a church in Haiti which had been destroyed by an earthquake and helped fund a kidney transplant for a local resident.
She also held numerous student leadership positions during her two years on the Dare campus, serving as president of the Student Government Association, a student ambassador, and president of the Literary Club. Vozzhaeva also had a hand in guiding the college’s future as a student member of the college’s Quality Enhancement Plan committee which included input from faculty and staff.
Looking back on her time at COA, Vozzhaeva credits the community college with her helping continue her educational journey.
“COA was the opportunity that changed everything for me,” Vozzhaeva said. “This college was my first introduction to the world of American academia. Small classes and the close connection with the instructors have allowed me to flourish in my studies.”
“The affiliation with various COA student clubs showed me that the opportunity of leadership is crucial to changing one’s life and setting the student on the route to success,” Vozzhaeva added. “For me, COA was my route to success. Through hard work in class, COA has taught me how to be a diligent student and through the leadership in various school clubs, it has taught be to be a good citizen.”