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Making a Difference: Stories of Hope and Help

Judy Billings; Yelena Bosovik
Mike Smith

Making A Difference:  Stories of Hope and Help.  Produced in cooperation with the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and inspired by NPR’s Story Corps, Stories of Hope and Help share personal experiences of need and generosity in the Ozarks.

Voice of Yelena Bosovik:  “Because I’m the first in my family to go to college, and I’m a first born, I think all that combines to make me very driven.”

In 1999, then 8-year-old Yelena Bosovik spoke no English when her family was granted asylum in the U.S. after fleeing religious persecution in The Ukraine. Her family would later move to Springfield, and while a senior at Glendale High School, Yelena - the oldest of 10 children - filled out nearly every scholarship application for which she was eligible.  The counselor’s considered Yelena a fixture in their office. With each application Yelena would include a hand written essay, and at the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Scholarship Committees took notice of her determination, motivation and need. Since 2009, of the 15 scholarships Yelena’s received totaling more than $100,000, 6 were from CFO donors and helped get her through Drury University and now into Law School at the University of Missouri. 

Judy Billings is the scholarship coordinator at CFO, and recently reunited with Yelena Bosovik to record our inaugural installment of Making a Difference; Stories of Hope and Help.

Yelena Bosovik:  “I remember when we met. How many years has it been now, was it in 2009?  Yeah, we met my Senior Year in High School when I was applying for scholarships.  I was going to Glendale and the counselor’s office had a set up with all these manila folders with scholarships applications, and a lot of them had to be turned into the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and I was kind of confused because I’m the first in my family to go to college and I was going through this process on my own. So I think I reached out to you (Judy) initially, but I was confused as to why I was sending so much stuff to the CFO.  From there you guided me along.”

Judy Billings:  “What I remember was you were in the counselor’s office every day. You were calling me every other day, (shared laughter) and you were clarifying what you could apply for and what you couldn’t apply for.”

YB:  “Yes, I think I learned early on to take no for an answer the first of my rounds.  As many scholarships I could, with absolute bare minimum meet the requirements, I was trying to apply for.  I remember I had a 3 inch binder that was color coded with all my scholarship applications, and I think by the end of my senior year I had applied for a hundred.  You were so helpful to me because there was a lot I didn’t know, parts of applications I was supposed to submit that I had no idea of what it meant.  Im sure I was quite annoying at that stage.”  (Shared laughter)

JB: “Not at all.  I remember it was a very sweet voice, and you were very polite.  You always had specific questions.  You didn’t just hum and haw, you had specific questions you wanted answered.  The other thing is, the (CFO) scholarships you applied for, most of them were reviewed by a specific (CFO) selection committee.  And you really impressed THEM, because you didn’t just do copy-paste for all your essay questions. You actually wrote an essay to answer every single scholarship, and that really paid off for you well.”

YB:  “Oh it sure did!”

JB:  “One of your CFO Scholarship benefactors was Henry (and Lucille) Straus. The Straus Scholarship is granted to a student getting a Liberal Arts education attending a private university. How do you react to what Straus did for you, even thou he’s no longer living?”

YB:  “To me it’s pretty extraordinary that someone would be so generous with their money to someone they don’t know.  It’s kind of unfathomable to me that someone would give you money and not ask you to pay it back.  It’s not that I was being greedy; it’s just that I knew I couldn’t’ve attended college otherwise.  But I think too that it’s psychological when someone believes in you enough to invest their money in you.  It’s very motivational at least for me, and it kind of ignited within me the need to give back whenever I do have my own career.  That’s why I’ve been driven to succeed in everything I do because I would say failure is NOT an option, although I’ve learned what failure is anyway.”

JB:  “I think one of the things you don’t realize is how much you’ve contributed to my life.  It’s been wonderful to be able to watch you, encourage you, and cheer you on.   The best part of my job at the Community Foundation of the Ozarks is to have a student like you, who revels in receiving scholarships and is so grateful and wants to give back in return.  And also, you inspire donors and future donors when they hear your story and think, maybe I might affect the next generation that way.  So, thank you for your story.”   

Judy Billings and Yelena Bosovik, in the studios of KSMU for Making a Difference:  Stories of Hope and Help.  Judy Billings is the Scholarship Coordinator at the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which since 2009 alone has awarded 4,100 scholarships to students across southern Missouri totaling  nearly 6 million dollars.  6 of those scholarships have helped put Yelena Bosovik through 4 years at Drury University and into Law School at the University of Missouri. 

For information about the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, it’s scholarship programs and its 47 affiliate foundations across southern Missouri,

For Making a Difference:  Stories of Hope and Help, I’m Mike Smith.

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