HSE student finds refuge in the Capital Region

When Russia invaded her homeland of Ukraine, Tetiana Prokopenko packed her bags, and with a group of friends, made her way to the Polish border to find refuge and safety.

Tetiana Prokopenko writing in a notebook, smiling.
Tetiana, known as Tanya, works diligently in her HSE class.

A little more than a year later, the 26-year-old is living in Albany and pursuing a high school equivalency diploma through CRB’s Adult Education department. Although she has a college degree and experience as a journalist abroad, Prokopenko sought the program for more than just a U.S. high school degree.

“I didn’t come to BOCES for the diploma necessarily, I came here for the community and to make friends, and also to learn about America and your customs,” said Prokopenko.

Prokopenko graduated on June 20 from the Adult Education High School Equivalency (HSE) program, where she learned beside students from the Capital Region, as well as nations abroad, such as Italy, Afghanistan and more.

As Prokopenko and her friends packed their belongings once Russia invaded Ukraine, she first went to her parent’s house to get their blessing to leave.

“I went and told my parents I was leaving and they were okay with it. It normally takes two hours to get to my family house from Kiev, but it took six hours — it was all tanks, military, planes all the way. It was scary,” she said.

Leaving as war broke out “was so unexpected. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my grandparents, my aunts, uncles, but I had to do it,” she said.

After crossing into Poland, she and her friends finally found refuge with a family. From there, she reached out to her then-fiancé, Baki Bozyel, in America and made arrangements to move to the U.S., which brought her to the Albany area. They had dreamed of a future together prior to the war, but the suddenness of the Ukrainian invasion fast tracked their plans.

Since arriving, Prokopenko has married Bozyel—who is an English as a New Language teacher in Columbia County—and started making a new life.
“I want to study engineering. I have classes in it already, but I want to get

Frank Finch (left) and Tetiana Prokopenko (right) smile in front of a sign that says Capital Region BOCES Career & Technical Education.
“My grandfather was a teacher and Frank reminds me of him in his mannerisms, way of speaking, way of getting to know his students and helping all of us,” said Tetiana about teacher Frank Finch.

better. I want to do IT here,” she said.

Attending the HSE program at BOCES helped her greatly, Prokopenko said:

“The program is great. I have met a lot of American students here who have helped me, not just with the language, but the culture. We are one big family.”

“I am grateful for the support of my classmates, teacher, case manager, and principal. They are not only showing interest in the war in Ukraine, they are also eager to support my nation and learn more about overseas culture,” she added.

Adult Education offers opportunities for adult learners to maximize their potential

Open to those 16 years of age or older, the Capital Region BOCES Adult Education HSE program is taught by a certified teacher who works with students to  successfully pass the exams necessary to earn a high school equivalency diploma. The curriculum focuses on preparing students in five subjects: reading, writing, social studies, science and math.

Learn more about our Adult Education opportunities.