For Lana Hoshko, being in a room with all of her classmates Friday night for the Mattituck Junior-Senior High School junior prom was bittersweet. In a few weeks, the foreign exchange student will be heading home, leaving behind friends and a loving host family.
But she’ll have the solace of how lucky she was to find such special people after a rocky start to her year in America.
Hoshko, who is from Zhytomyr, Ukraine, applied last year to study in the United States as part of the Future Leaders Exchange Program, a U.S. State Department initiative that provides scholarships for high school students from Europe and Asia to come to America.
“I was excited,” said Hoshko, 17, when she found out she would be going. “I really wanted to open my horizons and experience life in another country . . . feel the culture from its depth.”
When she arrived in the United States in August, Hoshko initially attended The Wheatley School in Old Westbury. However, when her host parents decided to divorce, everyone involved agreed that it would be best for Hoshko to find a new home. That’s how she ended up in Mattituck with Nick and Irene Andreadis.
Irene said that in October, a friend mentioned a post she saw on Facebook about a foreign exchange student looking for a new home. When she found out the student was Ukrainian, ancestry that she and Nick share, they applied to be Hoshko’s host parents.
By Nov. 14, they welcomed her as a third child into their family alongside their son and daughter, Nick and Larysa, both sophomores at Mattituck High School.
“And they’ve acted like triplets ever since,” Irene said.
With her return date of June 16 quickly approaching, Lana made sure to make the most of Friday’s festivities. Proms are slightly different in Ukraine — for instance, their students aren’t expected to bring dates.
“What’s most important is being with people I care about,” she said.
Hoshko said her time in the United States has been a roller-coaster ride because as much fun as she’s had, she misses home. She’s been keeping in touch with her family regularly but worries about them -- particularly her father, Volodymyr, a member of the Ukranian military. He had been called to the front lines in the eastern part of Ukraine, where the country has been battling Russian separatists.
“It’s hard. Every day you’re waiting for a call,” Hoshko said of her father’s military service. “I was praying for him, luckily he’s home now.”
Despite all the distractions, Hoshko has excelled in the classroom and gone above and beyond outside of it. The exchange program requires students to do 20 hours of community service, but Irene said that when Hoshko discovered certificates were awarded to those who completed 100 hours, she went for it.
After volunteering with a local Girl Scouts organization, homeless shelter and Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport, she’s amassed 144 hours and counting.
“She’s a great ambassador for the program,” Nick said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if years from now, she becomes the prime minister of Ukraine. That’s the type of person she is.”