Friday, June 11, 2021

Determination motivates 2021 WHS graduate to overcome adversity

Vania Murch has overcome many obstacles on the way to her
graduation from Windham High School this weekend. She was
adopted from an orphanage in Haiti at 10 and did not speak
English when she arrived in America but focused on academics
and volunteering to help other students. She has earned a ROTC
scholarship to attend Stetson University and will be commissioned
as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army upon earning her
college degree. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Ed Pierce

If there is one graduate from the Windham High School Class of 2021 that best symbolizes perseverance and the ability to overcome adversity in certainly one of the most challenging years in school history, it’s Vania Murch.

Her story of determination to rise above her circumstances is an inspiration to her classmates and fellow graduates and she truly represents the promise of what hard work can lead to both in education and in life. The moment when she receives her high school diploma on Sunday will be cause for immense celebration for her family and testament to the indomitability of the human spirit and her desire to succeed, no matter what life may throw at her. 

Murch was 10 and living in abject poverty in an orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti when she was adopted in 2013 by David and Anne Marie Murch of Raymond and brought to America. She didn’t speak a word of English at the time, only Creole. With the help of her family and her teachers, she was able to fit in and make the transition to a new life in Maine.

“When she first got here, she had an incredible gift for picking up English quickly,” said her father, David Murch. “Because the orphanage had regular visitors and work teams from the United States, culturally she had few problems adapting to life here, but it was a major change for her.”

Her father said Vania dedicated herself to putting in the time required to master her new language as she started class in fifth grade at Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond. Before long she spoke was reading and writing in English and became highly adept at speaking comfortably in her new language overcoming a formidable obstacle.

As she moved up to Windham High School, Vania made new friends said that she set a goal of learning as much as she could in school and seeing where that would lead to.

She’s actually done so well academically that she’s earned a ROTC scholarship to Stetson University in Florida and will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army when she completes her studies in business administration and obtains her college degree.

“In 10 years, I see myself working in my career in the U.S. Army,” Murch said. “The one thing I’ve learned more than anything else at Windham High School is that if I work hard, I can accomplish anything.”

Along with her focus on academics, Vania said she saw a need to give back to others while attending high school. As someone who was welcomed to the America by her classmates, she wanted to assist younger students and be a role model for them.  

During her freshman year, she played soccer, but gave up athletics after one season to volunteer to help younger children in school.

“I’ve mentored students at Windham Middle School and volunteered my time at Camp Berea,” she said. “I’ve also served as a tutor for students in math and in English.”

During her senior year, Vania was elected by her classmates at Vice President of the WHS Studen Council. She also is a member of the National Honor Society.

“It’s going to be hard to say goodbye, but what I will miss the most about Windham High School is the people here,” Murch said. “I have made so many great connections with teachers and have made so many great friends at this school.”

She said it was difficult to single out the most influential teachers she’s had along the way but credits her eighth-grade teacher at Jordan-Small Middle School, Patricia Valley, and her Spanish teacher at Windham High School, Trish Soucy, as among the RSU 14 educators that helped her to reach her full potential as a student.

Of all the field trips she’s taken since starting school in America, Vania says the most memorable for her was a trip her class took to the Boston Aquarium a few years back.

“It was so nice to get away and see a new place while spending time with my friends,” Murch said.

Of the many classes she’s taken at Windham High School, Murch lists AP English as one of the most challenging she completed.

“It was hard, but I kept trying to get a good grade and eventually did,” she said.

Windham High School Assistant Principal Phil Rossetti said that Vania Murch has made an indelible impression upon everyone she’s met there.

Vania is one of the most authentic and kind students at Windham High School. She genuinely cares about her classmates, school, and community,” Rossetti said. “She has made it her passion to get involved in a variety of activities and has accepted a number of leadership roles while taking a challenging academic load.”

Rossetti said she is not afraid to take risks and looks at any setback as a new challenge.

“Her positive outlook is infectious and helps keep her grounded,” he said. “Vania is a highly motivated student that is driven to be a success and makes each school she attends a better place.”

During graduation when Vania walks across the stage to accept her diploma, she will be one of three members of the Murch Family to receive WHS diplomas that day. Two other girls adopted from the same orphanage in Haiti, Pierre-Line and Jesulah, will join Vania in graduating from Windham High on Sunday.

“We’re proud of all of them,” David Murch said. “I very proud of what Vania has been able to accomplish. A lot of investment into this community has led to her own growth, All the special recognition that she’s received this year is based upon her character.”

Vania says that she does care a great deal about others and has spent many long hours studying and concentrating on her academics, but credits her family, her friends and her teachers for her success.

“I guess you could say perseverance is a good word for what I’ve been able to achieve, but I really ow a lot to the people around me who have helped me to succeed.”

As someone who relocated 1,750 miles away from where she was born, had to learn an entirely new language and then adapt to a different culture all while trying to get good grades and fit in during high school, Murch has overcome many challenges so far with many more ahead.

Her advice for others following in her footsteps at Windham High School is simple.

“The high school experience is what you make of it,” she said. “There are so many things to be involved in. Start by enrolling in the hardest class you can find and go from there.” <

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