When YES student Iva Valova headed to California last August, she wasn’t dreaming of stardom. But half a year later, Iva, who hails from Plovdiv, Bulgaria, is a local celebrity around Hanford, CA, admired for her creative and energetic work to help military veterans. She was also chosen as student of the month at Lemoore High School, where she earns straight A’s, plays on the tennis team, and participates in four clubs.
As a beloved volunteer at the Remington Senior Living Home, where many of the residents are veterans, Iva socializes, joins in games, serves food, and even plans special events. For a 1950s-themed party, Iva and two other students came in costume and decorated the Remington with cut-outs of vinyl records, vintage cars, and a soda shop. They entertained the residents with 1950s music and a trivia game. For Veterans Day, Iva honored the veterans for their service with handwritten thank you cards, balloons and candy. Iva has completed more than 110 hours of volunteer service.
The veterans have had such an impact on Iva that she decided to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project for disabled veterans for her Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) project. Iva started her GYSD project back in November through a collaborative idea with her host mother, Lori Luna, who is herself a veteran. When Lori saw the traditional Bulgarian dolls called Martenitsi that Iva was making for her cultural presentations, she noticed that the red and white figures could also serve as the perfect Christmas decoration. With a holiday craft fair approaching, the two got to work making dolls to sell, with proceeds going to disabled veterans. The Christmas sales raised $100, and Iva is continuing her fundraising for Wounded Warrior, with a goal of $1000 by GYSD in April.
Congratulations to Iva, who has brightened the lives of those around her in so many ways!