Can a Wood River High School student succeed in the land of the tall, blond and over-achieving Finns? Ruby Nava, a junior at Wood River High School, will do her best as an AFS exchange student next year. She will head for Finland on Aug. 19 and return Jan. 27.
"Not very many people travel to Finland," Nava said about her choice of locations. "It's just a different part of Europe. They do a lot of skiing so I'll probably do that. I'm looking forward to learning their culture and taking part in their lifestyle."
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Finland's students are among the highest scoring.
Nava is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her father, Guillermo, works for Nick Purdy on a ranch south of Bellevue. There are six daughters in the family.
"They are all incredibly hard workers and have big dreams. Ruby's is to be an AFS exchange student," said Amy McGraw, WRHS English teacher and local AFS coordinator. "She came in and got one of my AFS catalogues at the beginning of the year, read through the entire thing, and chose Finland. She knew she wanted Europe but also wanted something unfamiliar. Now the tough part, coming up with $8,000 for the program fees plus additional spending money. Even though she knew her family would not be able to contribute financially, Ruby never questioned her ability to raise all the money."
AFS-USA awarded Nava $1,500 in financial assistance. She will also receive $500 from the Wood River AFS chapter and $650 from AFS-Boise.
Nava has come up with other ways to earn money, including babysitting and selling homemade tamales and enchiladas.
Then the school itself became involved. One of Nava's classes, advanced placement U.S. history, taught by Julia Graft, did a one-day blitz of community fund-raising by calling businesses for donations.
Then on Wednesday, May 14, the school held its annual awards ceremony to honor academic excellence.
"At the end of the ceremony, Principal John Blackman said there was a special gift for one of the students," McGraw said. "(He) announced that the students in (Julia Graft's) class had raised $1,700 to give to Ruby to help cover her program fees to Finland. What an amazing job all these kids and teachers did to help one truly amazing student."
Nava is still raising more money. To help, contact McGraw at 720-5069 or send checks to WRV-AFS, Box 3357, Ketchum, ID 83340 with Nava's name on the memo line. AFS is a non-profit, so donations are tax-deductible.