Piano lessons, choir practice and youth group are just a few of the activities that keep Summit Christian senior Elona Sushchik busy each week.
Sushchik also helps her mother run Valya’s Taste of Home, a blog about Ukrainian food.
“I help edit pictures, post on Instagram and Facebook and take pictures,” she said.
While she did take a photography course in school, she likes “the business side better.”
Playing the piano, which she began in the fifth grade, is one of Sushchik’s main interests.
“When you play the piano, you feel like you’re in a different world,” she said. “All your worries go away because you’re just so into the piano you forget about everything.”
But piano isn’t Sushchik’s only musical interest; she also sings in her church’s youth choir.
“Every Monday we have choir practice and we sing songs and prepare and sing in other churches,” she said. “(I enjoy) how beautiful the pieces come out after all of the parts are put together.”
Sushchik called her aunt Nina Dashkovska a “role model” who’s more like an older sister than the “main babysitter.” The age difference between the two is 11 years.
“She’s been there for me since I can remember,” Sushchik said. “She helped me through everything.”
Her aunt shared a similar sentiment.
“We’re always hanging out, more like sisters than an aunt and her niece,” Dashkovska said.
Dashkovska described her niece as a “blessing to her family” and an “entrepreneur.”
“She constantly gives her mom new tips and ideas,” Dashkovska said.
Dashkovska is particularly impressed with Sushchik’s ability to shut out distractions.
“It’s been great to see such a young girl, in this day and age, not stuck in a computer or hanging out at the mall,” she said.
Dashkovska recalled an instance in which Sushchik drove a newly immigrated Ukrainian teen around Spokane, showing her the city and helping her assimilate. She even helped translate for the teen at times.
“She’d help anyone,” Dashkovska said.
Sushchik’s plans for the fall are up in the air. She is deciding among Whitworth, Gonzaga and Eastern Washington, but leaning toward Whitworth.
“They go a little faster and they also put God first,” she said.
Wherever Sushchik goes, she intends to study business.
“I want to get a master’s degree in business and accounting and open a bakery/coffee shop and partner with my mom,” she said. “I noticed Spokane doesn’t have a traditional Ukrainian or Russian coffee shop with traditional desserts. I want to establish a new type of coffee. Everyone copies each other. I want a new taste and style.”
Dashkovska sees a bright future for her niece.
“I can’t wait to see where life takes her,” she said.
Sushchik has been home-schooled since the fifth grade while also taking classes online through Columbia Virtual Academy.
“I loved (home schooling),” she said. “I really wanted to stay away from bad influences.”
Her parents emigrated to the U.S. at 18 and 19 years of age from Ukraine and uphold many of the cultural practices in their home.
“We speak Ukrainian at home,” she said. “(My mother) always makes Ukrainian food at home.”
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