On her first day, walking down the hallways at school, Soph. Valeria Ciolac noticed many students and teachers smiling at her. This simple act took her by surprise. In her home country of Moldova this would never happen, people keep to themselves and often do not even look up to wave at people in public. “My friends and I don’t hug when we see each other. Everything is more formal,” Ciolac said.
Ciolac wanted to experience the world and what other school systems were like. With the help of a teacher, Ciolac entered a competition to be selected to be an exchange student. After a long process of writing essays, going on interviews, and a lot of volunteer work, Ciolac found out she was accepted. Ciolac is an exchange student at West Ottawa High School for the year.
Initially, Ciolac was interested in politics, “Growing up, I did not watch cartoons, instead I would watch debates between politicians,” Ciolac said. Both of Ciolac parents are lawyers, and they deal with cases of corruption in Moldova.
Vladimir Plahotniuc is the president of Ciolac Madolva however he acts more like a dictator. He stole one million dollars from the civilians through taxes to fund his own personal needs. This has been a huge influence on why Ciolac believes that there should be new people representing her country. “From the time I was in middle school, I wanted to be a political journalist,” said Ciolac.
In her 9th grade year, her dream of being a journalist changed after she had to deal with corruption in her own school system.
Ciolac competed in many physics competitions, which is her second passion. She first entered a contest at the city level. If she won that contest, she could move on the national level. Ciolac worked extremely hard, and she was confident that the work she had submitted would earn her a spot at the national competition.
After learning that she lost to a girl whose mom was one of the judges, she knew something wasn’t right. “I knew the work that I submitted was correct, so I went down to the judges to show them that I should have won.” It took a lot of convincing for the judges to even let her go over her score. When she went over her work with the judges, they saw that she had done all the work correctly and then submitted her work into Nationals. The girl that she originally lost to, did not.
Ciolac went on to win Nationals and then she entered Internationals that consisted of seven other countries where she took second place.
After this, Ciolac knew she was a victim of corruption. “After this incident, I knew I no longer wanted to be the journalist writing about the politicians, I wanted to be the politician that made a change to stop all this corruption.” Ciolac said.
Since then, Ciolac has had to deal with many other cases of corruption in her school. Ciolac has been to many new schools from the time she was in elementary school. She and her five best friends would switch schools to try and find a fair one but no matter what schools they would go to, corruption would greet them. Ciolac and her friends would make videos that showed of corruption in her school. If a teacher was acting rude towards a student, Ciolac and her friends would recreate these bad actions in 5 minute long videos and show them to other parents and administrators. “The principal of our school threatened to kick us out of school for making videos.” Ciolac said. But, Ciolac and her friends knew that they couldn’t be kicked out of school for this, they had rights that were being ignored by their administrators. They continued to makes these videos to showcase what the school was doing.
It has been Ciolac’s goal to become the next president of Moldova and nothing can stop her. “I want a better school for my future children, and I am not going to stop until something gets changed.”
For Ciolac to reach her goal of becoming the next president she has to overcome many obstacles, not just corruption but also the gender gap in Parliament. “Out of the 101 members of parliament only 21 of them are women.” Ciolac is hopeful that over the next 10 years the gender gap will close but she is up for challenge. Ciolac knows her ideas will be beneficial to the school system. She hopes they will be taken into consideration even though she isn’t male.
Being an exchange student this year has helped Ciolac see what a uncorrupted school with kind people is like. She said, “West Ottawa is better, The teachers and students form relationships and it is a better environment for learning.” She hopes one day, she can do something that will make Moldovian schools better for future generations.