Yryskeldi’s Story

Yyrskeldi standing on field

“Despite Kyrgyzstan being home to many promising universities, their tuition costs were far beyond my family’s reach.” -Yrys ’22 

Thank you very much. Your support equips Berea students like me with life-altering education and relationships that we carry to all corners of the earth. Growing up in a Central Asian mountain village in Kyrgyzstan, my family showed me that success comes through working hard and trusting in others to offer help when necessary. Your support proves them right.

For a living, my family raises five horses and a hundred sheep on the northern slopes of the Himalayas. Like most Central Asian farmers, we suffered deep losses when turbulence hit our livestock markets many years ago. We did all we could to keep our ancestral farm afloat, and my mother began selling clothing and other goods at the bazaar—a local market—for extra income. She told me that education would be my best gateway to a prosperous future. Yet, despite Kyrgyzstan being home to many promising universities, their tuition costs were far beyond my family’s reach.

But our luck would have it that another person from my village, Aidana ’19, had gone to Berea College. After hearing of my college dream, Aidana told me about a miraculous school in the heart of Kentucky where no one pays tuition. From that day, I spent nine months perfecting my application for admission to Berea College.

The first days after submitting my application, I couldn’t sleep well—I was too nervous. But the usual chores of the farm and school distracted me, pushing the anxiety over my Berea application to the back of my mind as I got back to focusing on graduating high school with perfect grades. I achieved this goal, and I received a special commendation for my efforts from the president of Kyrgyzstan, which my mother brags about to all who will listen, like strangers at the bazaar.

I had worked very hard in school and at home, and it felt good to be rewarded. Yet, with that goal behind me, I was again faced with discovering my road to college. Fortunately, I soon got an email from Berea telling me I received a Tuition Promise Scholarship.

Right away I started screaming uncontrollably, and my mom came into the room thinking someone had fallen out the window. It took me ten seconds to stop screaming, take a deep breath, and let her know that I was accepted to Berea College. At first, she stared at me for a bit, and then she started dancing. I’d never seen her dance like that before. She was so joyous, partly because I was going to study in the United States and partly because you and others had offered us the help we needed, just like she’d taught me.

Yyrskeldi credits his sister, father, and mother for preparing him to thrive at Berea College.

Now, I’m in my third year at Berea as a Business and Sustainability and Environmental Studies double major with a minor in Computer Science. Berea has a rigorous curriculum that humbles me and helps me realize that the unity of disciplines is the best approach for large-scale positive change. Liberal arts academics at Berea put all the pieces together, making me a very well-rounded person.

Even though I grew up very familiar with hard work, Berea’s Labor Program had a lot to show me about appreciating the dignity of all work—mental and manual. With the support of Berea’s Career Development Program, I completed an internship with Greenpeace USA, the largest environmental advocacy group in the world. Berea also allows me to visit conferences—places of interaction between professionals in my field—and connect with industry experts. The people and ideas these opportunities showed me have made me feel like I can accomplish anything with the right team. After all, as President Roelofs says, relationships make life more colorful and meaningful.

Every gift you share with Berea leads to immeasurable growth in the lives of Berea students like me, as well as our families. To this day, the first thing my mother says when she meets someone new is, “My name is Dinara, and my son studies in the United States.” Thank you for giving me the chance to make her so proud.

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