Natalie spent three years as an active participant in the Bukharian Teen Lounge, JCCA’s after-school program that helps immigrant teens integrate into the American community while maintaining their rich cultural heritage and traditions.

“I honestly don’t know where I would be today without the help of the Lounge,” Natalie says.“My parents were immigrants without a college education, but were always extremely supportive of my academic endeavors and personal pursuits. At the Teen Lounge, I received SAT prep and learned how to write a personal statement—important skills that helped me get into college. The staff also taught us how to succeed in the workplace: write a resume, conduct an interview and even how to dress appropriately. I felt ready to tackle any situation after practicing via mock interviews. The staff’s coaching helped me be my best.“

Natalie graduated from Syracuse University and is pursuing a PhD in Medical Science as a Gates Cambridge Scholar at the University of Cambridge in England. When she completes her PhD, she hopes to return stateside to attend medical school.

It was during a BTL summer internship at Beth Israel Medical Center that Natalie became interested in surgery. “I hadn’t considered any other specialty than pediatrics before that–the internship was eye-opening,” she continues.“I worked with an orthopedic surgeon and saw all aspects of that particular surgery. Afterwards, I did internships in nursing, endoscopy and in the cardiac surgery ICU, and I continued to re-evaluate what field of medicine most engaged me. I’m hoping to eventually combine my interests in clinical medicine and research. Because of my current research project, I’m especially interested in viral oncology.”

Bella Zelkin, Director of Émigré Services, speaks of Natalie’s achievements with pride. “Natalie is a wonderful example of our success in working with the Bukharian community. Our jobs here are heartfelt and we are so proud to see these young people attain so much. It’s very special.”

Natalie didn’t forget the Teen Lounge when she went to college. This past spring, she returned to do an internship in a program in which she invited various Bukharian health experts to educate the teens about professions in the health care sector. She was also a member of the Young Bukharian Leadership Institute, a program that helps young Bukharian professionals connect and engage with the American Jewish community, where she inspired many young people by her example. According to Manashe Khaimov, Director of Bukharian Youth Services, “Natalie wanted to give back to the community, and she has done so in an important and meaningful way by working with our youth.”

“Being in England with my studies, I don’t have much time to devote to the community nowadays, but I hope to become more involved when I return to the States. It’s very important to me,” she explains.