Many college students are concerned with drink specials and which classes they can skip in the week, but for junior Yana Parkhomenko, a typical week includes much more. Parkhomenko spends roughly over 60 hours a week working multiple jobs and volunteering with countless organizations on and off campus. These hours are just time added to the equally demanding job of being a full-time college student at a respected university. She has been praised by many of those close to her and even described as “the most energetic, dedicated, and selfless person I have ever met,” by her best friend and roommate Mary Peninger.
On campus, Parkhomenko is part of UGA Heroes, was a 2014 Orientation Leader and is currently the vice president of the Russian Club. As a member of UGA Heroes, she is part of the WOW committee, which focuses on recruiting other students, encouraging people to go to events and spreading information about Heroes. The slogan of the committee is “if it’s not WOW, than it’s not worth doing,” which Parkhomenko explained as always giving 150 percent.
Starting with 130 applicants and narrowing down to 12 students, becoming an orientation leader at the University of Georgia is arduous to say the least. Being an orientation leader is a coveted position and the members represent UGA for the incoming students. Parkhomenko was one of only six girls to do so in 2014. Throughout the process, they spend long hours over the summer welcoming and assisting every incoming freshman and transfer student. “I was so nervous about starting college. I couldn’t imagine how hard the classes would be and how scary it would feel to live on my own. I was able to open up to Yana about this stuff at orientation, and I felt so calmed and even excited for classes to start. She was really there for me and I know I can still talk to her whenever I need to,” said Emily Johnson, one of many students who were a part of Parkhomenko’s orientation group. Even though the summer is over, there are still many things the orientation leaders do for the university. They take part in recruiting events year round and assist in the interview process for next year’s orientation leaders.
One of her favorite organizations on campus is Russian Club. Parkhomenko was born in the Ukraine and didn’t move to America until she was 7, making English her second language. A big part of what she does for the Russian Club is bring together current students, alumni and members of the community to celebrate their Russian culture. Her favorite event is the picnic they sponsor every year, where students and community members bring their favorite Russian dishes and share stories of their heritage with one another. Parkhomenko explains that she once met a lady who was from the exact same town in the Ukraine that she was born in and it was Russian Club that gave them the opportunity to connect.
Despite English being her second language, Parkhomenko’s most rewarding volunteer service is at Athens Church every Sunday, where she leads worship with kids ages two to five. Some nights Parkhomenko would work at a local clothing store, go straight to her bartending job until three and then be up and at Athens Church by 8 a.m. This demanding schedule is not for the faint-hearted and leaves Parkhomenko with little to no time for activities not involving work, volunteering, and school. When asked how she manages to do it all she offers a simple explanation: “I’m always tired. There have been times when I’m going 20 hours straight, but the things I’m involved in give me the energy and motivation to always give it my all.”
Parkhomenko is an outstanding student and a very important young member of the Athens community. She is hard working, optimistic and will definitely go far in life. “The reason why I do all of this is because I want to make an impact on not just UGA, but the Athens community. Throughout my time here I have met so many incredible people who have shaped me as a person and I just hope that I can be that for someone, too,” Parkhomenko said.