BRIDGEWATER, NJ - For Antonina Kozielska of Poland, her wish was to come to the United States of America and attend school – and now she is thriving as a senior at Bridgewater-Raritan High School with an A+ average.
It took seven years for Kozielska to convince her parents to let her apply to come to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student.
In her letter to her host families, Kozielska said she would bring optimism, something she learned from her own family, as well as excitement because she had been looking forward to coming to America for a while.
As a foreign exchange student, Kozielska was originally placed in Jersey City, attending a private school in Hoboken. But, she said, there were only about 12 students in the classes, and she felt very out of place.
The group sponsoring Kozielska is the Council of International Education Exchange, and emails were sent to areas with qualified host families that might provide a better fit.
Karole Lechowski and her husband responded to a church email, and Kozielska came to them in Bridgewater.
“The curriculum in Bridgewater-Raritan High School is phenomenal,” Kozielska said. “Everything that I came here to learn is found in this town and school.”
Kozielska said she came to the United States in August, and started school in Hoboken in September, but she had to travel for an hour-and-a-half by subway to get there.
“It was the same getting home, which didn’t allow me much time to do anything except homework before I had to get to bed for an early wake-up by a little before 4 a.m.,” she said. “I didn’t get any of the classes I was looking forward to getting because it was not offered at the school.”
But before she could move to Bridgewater, Kozielska said, she had to firm up some details because she was more than halfway through the first marking period in Hoboken.
“My host mom met with Dr. (Victor) Hayek, superintendent of Bridgewater-Raritan School District, and he was very instrumental in helping me find the right situation,” she said.
Kozielska said she met with Bridgewater-Raritan High School principal Mark Morrell and Alan Iachini, supervisor of guidance.
“After the interview, they felt I was in the right place and accepted me into the high school curriculum,” she said.
Kozielska said it took about three weeks for the approvals to come through with the board of education, and now she is making up that missed schoolwork, while keeping her grades up. She also found she had enough credits to be a senior.
“In June 2015, I will be graduating from Bridgewater-Raritan High School,” she said. “It will be such an honor for me to graduate from this high school in the United States of America. It was a dream in the past for me, now a dream toward my future.”
Kozielska said she is currently taking Algebra, English, history and other courses. She would also like to get involved with the arts and drama.
After she graduates from the high school, Kozielska said, she wants to go to college in America and make America her permanent home.
“The opportunity here is amazing, but you need to work for it,” she said. “And I am doing just that to succeed.”
Kozielska said she hopes to qualify for a scholarship, or part of one, to help with her college tuition.
“My dreams are big,” she said. “Now that I’m here, it seems like everything is possible.”
Kozielska said she would love to see all 50 states and travel the world.
“There are many opportunities in the USA, and I’m ready to work to achieve what I want to,” she said.
In her letter to her host family, Kozielska said she has wanted to be an actress since she was 3 years old. And while in America, she hopes to improve her English to help in her career goal, while also learning American history and much more.
“I would really like to get involved with the arts and drama,” she said. “My dream was always to be in a school musical in America, because in Poland I performed in theater since I was 10.”
Despite her success and hard work, Kozielska said she does miss her family, with her mother, father and a brother in Poland, as well as another brother in London. She said they email and call often to keep in touch.
“My family encourages me to better myself, and they are very supportive,” she said. “They made it possible for me to get here.”
Kozielska said she just wants to take advantage of what she has here.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me so I know I should take as much as I can from it,” she said. “And that’s how I get my motivation to work hard at school. I’m not here to be lazy, I’m working for a better future.”