Scoring an advance for science education in Estonia
By Peter Schmidtke
Rotary International News
Former Ambassadorial Scholar Katrin Raie (center) presents Harri Saarinen (left), of the Rotary Club of Helsinki City West, Finland, a framed letter of appreciation for the club's support of a 2009 Matching Grant project that supplied science equipment to a school in Tallinn, Estonia. Photo by Laura Leena Raud Forty Estonian high school students rolled up their sleeves and used Matching Grant-funded science equipment to test water, air, and soil at a nuclear power plant and other sites in Latvia and Lithuania during a three-day trip in October.
"The possibility of taking the equipment along and letting students do on-site measuring is a dream come true for any science teacher," says Katrin Raie, a 2003-04 Ambassadorial Scholar who acted as a project liaison between the sponsor Rotary clubs and the Vanalinna Hariduskolleegium school in Tallinn, Estonia.
Teachers have been using the US$24,000 worth of equipment in high school classes and in extracurricular lab sessions for younger students.
As a board member of a foundation serving the school and a former vice principal, Raie helped complete the grant application and coordinate the effort with the sponsor Rotary clubs of Nõmme-Tallinn, Estonia; Magdeburg-Otto von Guericke, Germany; and Helsinki City West, Mäntsälä, Tuusula, and Ylikerava, Finland. She also took German Rotarians on a tour of the lab.
Scholars are typically introduced to Rotary service during their scholarship year, but Raie was already coordinating a Matching Grant effort as a school vice principal when she first heard about the Ambassadorial Scholarship opportunity. With a degree in English as a second language, she has coordinated multiple grants since 1998 involving the local club and Rotarians in Finland, Germany, and the United States.
"There was a U.S. Rotarian visiting some of the sites that were the beneficiaries of medical equipment, and I was taking her around to the hospitals," recalls Raie. "I mentioned that I have a dream that I would like to get a graduate degree in America, and she said, `You know, we have this scholarship program. Why don't you try?'"
Less than two years later, Raie, then 38, was working as a Rotary Scholar toward a master's degree in cultural and educational policy studies at Loyola University in Chicago. Hosted by the Rotary Club of Chicago, she introduced herself to the Midwest Estonian Association and helped the group prepare for a convention at which she gave a presentation.
While completing an internship at the Latin School of Chicago, Raie became acquainted with the school's music director, Michael Teolis. She invited Teolis to bring the school's band and choir to Tallinn, and in 2008, 85 students spent eight days in Estonia and Finland, performing at joint concerts with students from both countries.
"She was instrumental in almost every aspect of planning the trip," says Teolis. "Tallinn students gave tours, and some of our students are still in contact with students they met there.
In 2009, after a two-year position professionalizing the training curriculum at a national freight-forwarding association, Raie was named deputy regional director for SOS Children's Villages International.
"My experience as a Rotary Scholar as well as the knowledge and skills I acquired at Loyola will be put to the best use in this position, for the benefit of children and families," says Raie.