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Medford High students speak out for Ukraine and its children

Medford High School student Jordan Ianakiev spoke about the Ukrainian friends he made while traveling in Bulgaria last summer during "Stand With Ukraine," an event and fund-raiser Friday organized by students with the Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

MEDFORD — One by one, eight students stepped to the podium set up outside Medford High School and spoke to a crowd of about 50 or so people, many of whom sported the blue-and-yellow colors of Ukraine.

“The recent turn of events has saddened me to my core,“ Jordan Ianakiev said. “Children being born in subways because city hospitals have all been bombed, communities turned upside down, unrecognizable, dead civilians lying in the streets.”

Ianakiev spoke Friday evening at “Stand with Ukraine,” an event organized by the Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility, a program of the Medford Public Schools.

“We come here tonight in solidarity to shore up more support for the people of Ukraine who have been caught in an unnecessary and illogical act of war and to honor all innocent civilians whose lives have been lost thus far,” Zayn Yousef, the group’s president, said in his opening remarks.

The group, which aims to engage students with social issues, is supported by grants from the nonprofit the Krystle Campbell Community Betterment Project, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the Cummings Foundation.


Julie Parker of Medford, who attended with her son, Max Davis, 12, wore a scarf with blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the students have been collecting money and holding fund-raisers such as a bake sale at Friday’s event, to donate to UNICEF to help protect children in Ukraine.

“With our event, although it might seem small, because it’s in our community, it still does raise awareness,” said Anamol Kaspal, a student organizer. “Even if you don’t raise thousands of dollars, it will still help because even some amount of aid is necessary when they’re having a humanitarian crisis in their homes.”

The gathering drew a mix of students and community members. While students denounced the war and Russian President Vladimir Putin, there were also reflections on hope for a peaceful resolution.

School Superintendent Marice Edouard-Vincent noted the sunflower, Ukraine’s national flower, has become a symbol of hope and unity.


“It is my sincere hope that the Ukrainian people can find the sunlight to help them get through these difficult and horrific days,” Edouard-Vincent said.

Medford Superintendent of Schools Dr. Marice Edouard-Vincent speaks during during a "Stand With Ukraine," event and fundraiser at the high school. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Student Emma Desharnais spoke of Ukraine’s natural beauty while castigating the horrific assault on its land and people.

“Ukraine has a beautiful and diverse landscape with beautiful groups of people who wholeheartedly believe in being united and being together. Vladimir Putin took that away from them. He’s taking this away from them,” she said. “Did you expect us to keep quiet? . . . And right now, we as a community will support Ukraine and we will stand with Ukraine.”

Anderson Prince said the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people to fight back and protect their country have inspired the world.

“The true strength of Ukraine comes not from the power of their forces, but from the enduring forces of the ideals: democracy, opportunity, and unwavering optimism,” Prince said. “Their outstanding efforts have not gone unnoticed. We’ve all seen their incredible bravery, citizens blocking tanks with their bodies, children, mothers, professors, retirees, and everyday individuals ready and willing to defend their country.”

From left, Pat Trzcinski, wore a Polish flag, and Jill Wroten, wore a Ukrainian flag, both of Medford, at Medford High School during a "Stand With Ukraine," event and fundraiser organized by Medford High School students. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

Madison Mercado can be reached at madison.mercado@globe.com.