East Leyden students meet Bulgarian president
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev talks to East Leyden student Natasha Lenart in downtown Chicago on May 19 (photo courtesy of Fran Brady)
Updated: July 8, 2012 6:22PM
Natasha Lenart had just left her European History class May 10 at East Leyden High School when she ran into Fran Brady in the hall.
Brady, director of careers at District 212, asked if Lenart could come to her office for a minute.
“I have a question for you,” Brady said.
“Do you want to meet the president of Bulgaria?” Brady asked.
Lenart took a moment. “OK, sure,” she said.
Brady, herself, had gotten the invitation when she was leaving her office for a baby shower.
“I have this great opportunity, the Junior Achievement liaison told me,” Brady said. “I was, like now? I’m late.”
On May 19, Lenart, her classmates Toni Milushev and Dimitar Bozukov along with Brady and two adult chaperones drove to 205 N. Michigan Ave. After showing ID several times they were escorted to a room on the 26th floor.
There were students from three other high schools along with their chaperones, maybe two-dozen people in all. Then in walked Rosen Plevneliev, president of Bulgaria.
Plevneliev took office in January. The 48-year-old rules a mountainous country of about 7 million that is a little larger than the state of Tennessee, according to the CIA World Factbook website.
Plevneliev was in Chicago for the NATO summit. An entrepreneur, he’s started and ran multiple businesses before running for office. He was interested in meeting students involved in Junior Achievement, a program that teaches high school students about entrepreneurship.
The president greeted everyone in the room then walked around and spoke individually to each student. When he reached Milushev and Vozukov, he got a surprise.
“He seemed really surprised that me and Dimitar spoke in Bulgarian,” Milushev said.
Both were born in Bulgaria. Milushev had moved to the U.S. at age 11 though he still has family in Bulgaria. He has some knowledge of current events in Bulgaria but describes himself as “Americanized.”
Milushev almost chose not to attend. It was the same time as the school prom, and he had plans to spend the rest of the weekend in Wisconsin.
Instead, he found himself speaking to Plevneliev about his activities in Junior Achievement including job shadowing and interning at a computer company.
He also asked Plevneliev how he would get migrants from Bulgaria to return. Bulgaria has an estimated migration rate of 2.84 people per 1,000, according to the CIA World Factbook.
“He said he’s not going to be president that would tell people to stay,” Milushev said. “He wanted people to experience as much as they can and to create as many opportunity for people to come back.”
Lenart told Plevneliev about Ask the Expert Day in District 212 and job shadowing.
“I told him I’m only a sophomore and that being in Junior Achievement really opened my eyes to the professional world and how important business is,” Lenart said. “He was like, ‘Wow.’ He said he’s proud of me that I’m getting so involved.”
Lenart was most impressed by Plevneliev’s flexibility.
“I love that he’s so open to new ideas,” Lenart said. “Taking the risks. I think he’s a true business man, not a politician.”
As for Milushev, he plans to list the experience on his résumé.
“It’s something that not many people have done in their lives,” Milushev said. “To meet a president is amazing.”