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Wayland family hosts teen from Namibia after sight-saving surgery

GIFT OF SIGHT:David and Kara Miller of Sudbury first met 13-year-old Ricardo Gei Khaub when they volunteered with their sons at Community Hope School in Katutura, Namibia — sister school to Veritas Christian Academy in Wayland — for two weeks in March 2011.

Then a sixth-grader, Ricardo’s congenital keratoconus was already so advanced that to read he had to have his eyes an inch from the page. When the Millers learned that Ricardo would be traveling to the United States for a sight-saving operation, they offered to host him during his recovery.

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Ricardo underwent a successful cornea transplant in Colorado in September, and arrived at the Millers’ home the following month. Now able to read normally, he attends Veritas Christian Academy with two of his host brothers, 10-year-old Sam and 7-year-old Josh. The Miller family’s youngest son, Danny, is 8 months old.

Ricardo receives donated dental and medical care, including medicine, such as three different eye drops. He wears protective goggles when playing basketball, football, and soccer, his favorite sport.

“One of Ricardo’s gifts is how smart he is and how quickly he adjusts,” said Kara, noting that nothing gets him down. “He’s a big personality. He’s very curious and extroverted, and just a fun kid.”

Ricardo, who is being raised by his grandmother, has kept in touch with his large extended family via Skype. While they speak in their native Damara click language, Ricardo is also fluent in English and Afrikaans.

Ricardo will spend the summer with a host family in Denver. He expects to be medically cleared to return home to Namibia in September.

The Millers hope it will be a little easier to say goodbye knowing how much his family misses him.

“It’s been hard, knowing we’d have to let him go and not have control over what will happen to him in his future,” said Kara, who also expressed gratitude for the support her family has received from their school, church, and community.

Ricardo shares this sentiment.

“They’re awesome,” he said. “God will bless them.”

RESTORING THE CHESTNUT: The students of Berlin Memorial School recently received a special lesson from the town’s Conservation Commission and the American Chestnut Foundation through the planting of three potentially blight-resistant American chestnut seedlings in the field behind the school.

The event included 20 fifth- and sixth-grade students, teachers, members of the Conservation Commission, and Kathy Desjardin of Uxbridge, Rufin Van Bossuyt, and Elizabeth Hammond of the Massachusetts and Rhode Island chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation.

Walter Bickford, a member of the Conservation Commission, discussed the history and importance of the chestnut in New England as a source of food, fire- and rot-resistant timber, and inspiration for songs and poems. Once called the redwood of the East, according to Bickford, the American chestnut was devastated by a fungus that claimed 4 billion trees from Maine to Georgia in the early 1900s.

Bickford said the planting was an effort to get kids “out of doors and involved” in a series of events commemorating Berlin’s bicentennial celebration. While the students have been tasked with annually reporting the trees’ height to the American Chestnut Foundation, Bickford hopes the project will inspire wider interest.

“You can walk in the woods blindly and it’s good exercise,” he said, “but if you know trees, animal tracks, and bird songs, it makes it all the more interesting.”

HEAD OF THE CLASS: Plainville resident Karthik Kamik, an eighth-grader at King Philip Regional Middle School in Norfolk, will make his second trip this week to Washington, D.C., where he will once again represent Massachusetts at the National Geographic Bee. The 24th annual event will take place from Tuesday to Thursday.

Karthik is one of 54 students remaining in the nationwide competition, which began with more than 5 million participants in fourth through eighth grades. The top 10 finalists will compete in the final round, which will be moderated by “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek and aired on the National Geographic Channel from 8 to 10 p.m. Thursday.

The students will be competing for three college scholarships worth $25,000, $15,000, and $10,000, respectively. Additionally, the winner and a parent or guardian will travel, all expenses paid, to the Galápagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavour.

Karthik is one of 13 repeat state winners. Last year, he was awarded $500 as one of the 10 finalists.

“I’ve always liked geography because I want to learn more about the world,” said Karthik, who founded a geography club at his school last year. He has competed in the National Geographic Bee since the fifth grade, a year after learning about the competition and petitioning his principal to involve their school. MATH FOR REAL LIFE: A math team of five juniors from Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton earned third place out of six finalists nationwide in Moody Corporation’s Mega Math Challenge last month in New York City. It was only the second time in the competition’s seven-year history in which a team from Massachusetts qualified for the final.

Karthik said he is appreciative of the encouragement of his school and family — particularly his brother, Sathwik, a sixth-grader who defeated him in their school competition two years ago to advance to the state final.

“This year, I want to do better than I did before,” he said. “Maybe even win.”

Team members were Marlborough resident Sorin Vatasoiu and Stow residents Madeline Jenkins,Sam Kirschbaum,Joel Sharin, and Steven Tang. Their coach and mentor was math teacher Mary Redford of Stow.

“To win third place when the majority of the top six were teams from magnet science and technology schools is nothing short of incredible,” Redford said. “It speaks volumes for the students and the host of teachers, coaches, and parents that have helped them develop into the incredible young people that I have the privilege of teaching and coaching.”

The Nashoba finalists, who were competing for a share of $115,000 in college scholarships, each received $2,000. Nearly 1,000 teams from 29 states entered the competition, which emphasizes the value of mathematics in daily life.

The contest is organized and managed by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics. For more information, visit m3challenge.siam.org.

DEAN COLLEGE NEWS: Dean College president Paula M. Rooney of Franklin was honored with the 2012 Athena Leadership Award at a luncheon hosted by the United Regional Chamber of Commerce. Recipients are recognized for excellence, creativity, business initiative, devotion to improving the quality of life for others, and assisting women in reaching their full leadership potential. Rooney has been president of Dean since 1995.

Julianne Pederson of Franklin is the new dean of the college’s Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance. She has extensive experience as a performer, choreographer, administrator, and dance educator.

Franklin resident Angela Zaccardi is one of 21 Dean students accepted to study dance in the Ailey Summer Intensive program from June 19-July 27 in New York City. Designed for students with at least three years of consistent training, the program advances the technical skills of dancers in a wide variety of techniques.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com.
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