MSMS Russian Students Celebrate Banner Year

May 15, 2024

Senior Russian students Ean Choi of Hattiesburg and Ella Jones of Long Beach are winners of federal scholarships for the study of Russian in the former USSR in summer 2024. Their awards are among an array of accolades won by MSMS Russian students this year.

Choi and Jones, both 18, have received National Security Language Initiative for Youth awards to Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic and now independent country in Central Asia, from late June to mid-August. The immersive programs, funded through the U.S. State Department, include homestays, intensive language classes, and excursions to places of cultural or historical interest.

Calling the NSLI-Y program a “once in a lifetime opportunity to experience culture and learn language,” Choi said he chose to study Russian at MSMS because of its difficulty. “I have always attempted learning languages on my own and coming to MSMS, the opportunity presented itself to learn Russian, a notoriously hard language. I felt drawn in to challenge myself to learn Russian.” Choi said he hopes to combine Russian with whatever field he ultimately chooses as his specialty.

Russian is considered by the U.S. government to be a language critical to U.S. economic and political interests. MSMS is the only K-12 school in Mississippi where Russian is offered.

Although Jones has opted not to take up the NSLI-Y offer, she said she hopes to continue studying Russian in college. “I like Russian because of the rich culture,” she said.

MSMS Russian students brought home 22 gold medals and two silver from the 2024 Olympiada of Spoken Russian, a contest sponsored by the American Council of Teachers of Russian that is unique in the world language field. Competitors demonstrate their proficiency in speaking Russian in everyday contexts and their knowledge of various aspects of Russian culture and history. Students compete in regions around the United States.  For Mississippi, the competition is held annually through Rhodes College in Memphis. Contestants are judged not against each other, but against a set of proficiency standards for their level. Currently, with Russia at war with Ukraine, there is no competition for a U.S. national team or for an international competition, which was traditionally held in Moscow.

Gold medalists at the 2024 Olympiada were seniors Madeleine Brain of Starkville, Maxim Chamberlin of Olive Branch, Ean Choi of Hattiesburg, Keyonna Griffin of McComb, Lila Jacks of Oxford, Ella Jones of Long Beach, Roman Luckett of Starkville, Lucianna Marquez of Hernando, Georgianna McKenny of Crystal Springs, Elena Perry of Hattiesburg, Sara Grace Vance of Winona and Gavin Weatherspoon of Columbus.

Junior gold medalists were Emily Barnes of Richton, Elizabeth Brittain of Collinsville, Aden Byrd of Madison, Rebecca Candland of Long Beach, Megan Colley of Oxford, Jad Frazier of Philadelphia, Anderson Lin of Southaven, Aliyiah Richey of Columbus, Charles “Max” Thompson of Hernando, and Aaron Zmitrovich of Clinton.

Silver medalists were senior Colt Sorey of Magee and junior Sydney McCurdy of Morton.

“I am so proud of the hard work my students have done this year and the accolades they have won,” said Russian teacher Margaret Mary Henry, noting that the victories by Choi and Jones bring to 12 the number of NSLI-Y scholarship recipients from MSMS.

To learn more about the Olympiada of Spoken Russian, sponsored by the American Council of Teachers of Russian, please click here.