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Skaneateles middle schoolers form bond with Kazakhstani students, plan trip

Students gathered and posed before opening a package from their correspondents in Kazakhstan.  First row (from left): Bella Capozza, Ellen Flanagan, Jessica Casper, Zoe Osborne, Sierra Sander, Liz Copeland, Carolyn Hagen. Middle row: Jenna Fields, Corin Wagner, Justin Wolford, Nick Paciorek, Nicola Kunz, Noah Smith. Top row: Amelia Huba, Heather Short, Christian Caldwell, Connor Ellison.

Students gathered and posed before opening a package from their correspondents in Kazakhstan. First row (from left): Bella Capozza, Ellen Flanagan, Jessica Casper, Zoe Osborne, Sierra Sander, Liz Copeland, Carolyn Hagen. Middle row: Jenna Fields, Corin Wagner, Justin Wolford, Nick Paciorek, Nicola Kunz, Noah Smith. Top row: Amelia Huba, Heather Short, Christian Caldwell, Connor Ellison. Lori Ruhlman

In addition to the continuing involvement of the now-eighth grade girls, the connection has expanded to include a group of seventh grade boys who are in O’Connell’s home base now and a number of other interested students and families. Parents have also become involved, and a fundraising effort is under way to help entertain the guests from Kazakhstan when they visit Skaneateles in July. The students, their teacher and a mother in Kazakhstan will pay for their own travel and visas, but the Skaneateles group is raising money to help with travels inside the United States. The two groups will meet in New York City for some fun and exploration before heading “home” to Skaneateles, where the visitors will stay with host families, O’Connell said.

It is a major undertaking for the students and their teacher to apply for visas and to save/raise money for their airfare, said O’Connell. They are willing to work hard and to make scarifies to make their dreams become reality, she said.

The package that arrived in Skaneateles this week was mailed from Kazakhstan in late November, said O’Connell. A package sent from Skaneateles to Kazakhstan after Thanksgiving has not yet been delivered. That box includes a special doll for the teacher and other treasures from student to student.

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