Imagine leaving your country behind, having to learn a new language, living in a new home with a new family and adjusting to a whole new culture at the age of 15.
This is exactly what Vitalik underwent when he was adopted several years ago from his native Ukraine and relocated to Colorado. Vitalik, who spent much of his life in an orphanage, was adopted by a family in the United States that includes two sisters in addition to a new mom and dad.
With the help of his new family, Vitalik has learned English, graduated from high school and is now a freshman at Colorado Christian University. He has achieved so much in such a short period of time, and all of us at UMPS CARE Charities are proud to announce that he is the 2019 recipient of our All-Star College Scholarship.
– Gary Darling, UMPS CARE president
This scholarship, valued at $10,000 per year, is awarded to one new student each year who was adopted later in life. The thinking behind this program is that families who adopt children after the age of 13 do not have much time to save for college. Since this program’s inception, close to $200,000 has been distributed to people like Vitalik which truly has resulted in life-altering changes for each student. When you consider that the average tution for an in-state student at a public university (not including room and board) is about $10,000 per year and a private university can set a family back about $35,000 per year, the funding is huge for families who did not save years in advance.
"This program is truly life changing," said UMPS CARE president Gary Darling, a retired MLB umpire. "It helps these kids, who have been through more than most kids their age – or people of any age for that matter – go to the college of their choice and not have the financial burden. I wish we had $100,000 to give out every year. I think the hardest part for us is selecting the one winner each year because we would love to be able to impact the lives of more young people.
"I don't think rewarding is a strong enough word for what this program is all about," Darling added. "I think this is one of the best things we do at UMPS CARE."
Vitalik was selected after submitting an application, complete with recommendations, essays and a follow-up interview. Now, just several years removed from an orphanage around the world and knowing no English, Vitalik is on a new path – and has truly become a part of the UMPS CARE family.
“(The UMPS CARE scholarship) means a lot to me,” Vitalik said. “My parents and I decided we would split the cost for college. They would pay for room and board and I would pay for the rest. I was looking for scholarships so I wouldn’t have to take out a loan. I am so happy I have found this scholarship and got some funding for school.”
Vitalik learned about the UMPS CARE All-Star College Scholarship program through his local church in the Denver area, Cherry Hills Community Church, which has an adoptive and foster care group.
A very important aspect of the UMPS CARE All-Star Scholarship program is that these students become part of the UMPS CARE family. Major League Umpires, family members and UMPS CARE supporters play key roles as mentors for each scholarship recipient. Umpires build a relationship with their student to help them problem solve during difficult times and make the transition to college and beyond a little easier. Umpire spouses send care packages and cards each semester. The mentors serve as a support network for the student and help create a culture of giving back that the student will carry with them in school and beyond. In addition to the cards and care packages, the recipients have the opportunity to attend a Big League game and meet the umpires in person.
Vitalik recently met MLB umpire Todd Tichenor (in addition to fellow crew members Adam Hamari, Tom Hallion and Ben May) at a Colorado Rockies game. Tichenor’s wife, Kelly, serves on the UMPS CARE All-Star College Scholarship Committee, but was unable to meet Vitalik at the game.
“We had a great time at the game,” said Vitalik, who went to the Rockies game with his family and got to go behind-the-scenes for a special visit with the umpires. “I’m so thankful for a great support family that has been provided to me by UMPS CARE. It was such a great experience visiting Todd and the other umps in the Umpires waiting room. He also gave us baseballs, which was pretty cool, too.” Todd and Kelly wanted to get more involved with UMPS CARE Charities, and the scholarship program appealed to both of them, as they could not only participate in the application process but also could mentor the winner.
“Vitalik was so respectful and thankful for the opportunity he has been given,” Todd Tichenor said. “He fit in with the umpire family very easily. Vitalik spoke of maybe being a police officer but really didn’t know what his life would bring him in the future. He did know one thing and that was he was very grateful to meet us, and that he was not going to put a financial burden on his family. I know that it was a tough choice to choose a scholarship winner, but after getting to meet Vitalik and his family, I know the right choice was made by the UMPS CARE board in selecting him.”
On behalf of all of us at UMPS CARE, we wish Vitalik a successful collegiate career!