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Darya Mikhailova spent 2 years in Virginia's Foster Care System.

Cultural connections come in many forms, as Darya Mikhailova’s life proves. Since arriving in the United States at the age of 10, she has endured several years of instability with her mother that led to three years of foster care—and through it all, Darya developed an English language proficiency that has made her a leader in her community, an honor student at school, and an inspiration to other students in her school. Darya, who prefers to be called Dasha, participated in her school’s Best Buddies program in support of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities before joining her foster family—the experience stuck with her. Since that time, her dedication to volunteerism has been a constant: Between 10th and 11th grades, she went on a mission trip to another city in Virginia, where they participated in a Christmas in July celebration. Since September of 2010, she has participated in her church’s Dance and Drama group, which in August of 2011 will compete in a national event. Dasha’s school and community involvement, from foster-care leadership events to her school’s DECA program to coordinating her school’s fashion show, demonstrates her passion for connection and leadership, but one of the greatest examples of her instinct for connecting people is Club More. After ending up at a school without a Best Buddies program, Dasha and a friend formed the club to help students be successful and meet their goals. From helping a student with an intellectual disability attend a dance to helping a peer with no family support to apply for college, Club More wants to make sure every student has “more.” Dasha and her peer developed a lengthy manual for those who want to be involved in the club and be supportive to other students. Dasha entered foster care in May 2009 when she was 15 after several years of instability with her mother. Dasha and her foster family have connected well and intend to have a lifelong relationship. Dasha feels part of their family and they feel Dasha is part of their family. Dasha plays "big sister" to the two young girls in the home. Dasha is a connector—amidst her new “family,” among her classmates, within her community, taking a life that others could see as one of broken connections and using it to bring people in her new home—the United States—together.

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