Meet five students who were adopted from other countries


Jacob Maguire

Sophomores Quillyn Smith (left) and Elizabeth Pekar (right) were both adopted from China.


In a community where just 3.4 percent of the population was born outside the United States, students hailing from other countries are relatively rare. However, a handful of NK students were born halfway across the globe and adopted by local families.

International adoptees at NK hail from countries such as China, Russia, Cambodia, and Guatemala, among others. Most were adopted before their first birthdays, and the majority of them are females.

During the earliest year of their lives, these students overcame both figurative and physical barriers that are foreign to many NKHS students. In addition, their unique experiences and stories, although hindered by loss of memory, provide a glimpse of what life is like in developing countries.

Sophomore Elizabeth Pekar, for example, was abandoned by her birth parents in front of a police station in Xiangtan, China. (Xiangtan is located in the province of Hunan.)

“I think that [my birth parents] gave me more opportunities than I would have had in China,” Pekar said. “I’m not really angry and I’ve forgiven them.”

In the orphanage where she stayed afterwards, Pekar shared a crib with a girl who was born a few days later, April Younkin, until she got adopted. Coincidentally, a family in Portsmouth adopted Younkin.

“[April] and I still talk to each other,” Pekar said. “She’s the closest [link] I have to where I was born.” Although Pekar does not know her exact date of birth for certain, she celebrates her birthday on April 5.

Pekar’s older, adoptive sister, Suzanne, is similarly from China. However, the two girls are from different regions of the country.

Senior Maddy Fine was also adopted from China, although she is from the province of Jiangsu.

Fine was adopted by a Caucasian family eight months after she was born. Daniel, one of her two adoptive brothers, is also a senior at NK. When Fine was in preschool, some of her friends thought that they were twins.

Although Fine has a different ethnicity than the other four members of her family, she doesn’t mind. “It’s kind of good, not looking like my parents, because if they do something embarrassing, people don’t think I’m related,” she said jokingly. “[Looking different from them] is normal to me because I’ve been with them so long. They accept me as who I am.”

In addition, sophomore Quillyn Smith was adopted from China. Born in Wuhan, China, Smith moved to the United States when she was about a year old. Her adoptive family consists of three siblings from Guatemala, including a pair of twin brothers, one sibling from Kansas, and a younger sister, Sadie, from a different region in China.

When her younger sister, Sadie, was adopted from China, Smith traveled there with her entire family. They spent a week in Yunan province and Beijing, visiting sites such as the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City.

Smith does not know who her birth parents are, and she is not sure whether or not she would like to meet them. “It would be interesting to meet [my parents], but I don’t know if I want to,” she said.

Freshman Mikayla Lane was adopted from Russia when she was about a year old. Although she does not remember any of her experiences there, her adoptive parents have filled her in.

“I stayed in an extremely poor orphanage,” Lane said. “There were metal cribs, no windows, a dirt floor, and all of the babies were malnourished.”

Since her birth mother already had two children at the time and could not afford to support another child, Lane was seized by Russian authorities at birth and labeled a “government baby.”

Even so, she looks forward to meeting her birth parents and biological siblings. Lane knows who they are, but she is unsure of their whereabouts.

Her parents also planned to adopt a baby boy at the same orphanage, but he was too sick when they arrived in Russia.

As a member of the school orchestra, Lane wants to travel to Quebec in April with the group. However, she is currently struggling to obtain a passport because her birth transcripts were lost in the Russian embassy thirteen years ago. In spite of this, she anticipates that she will have a passport in time for the trip.

Lane also opposes Russia’s new ban on U.S. adoption. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the bill in Dec. 2012, and it took effect in early 2014.

“I’m very lucky [to be] here,” Lane said. “Otherwise, I’d be living on the streets in Russia.”

“My parents [put me up for adoption] only in their best interest for me… I would love my birth parents to see how far I have come. I think they’d be proud of my accomplishments.” – Ana Pellegrino

Quillyn Smith, sophomore

Born in Wuhan, Hubei province, China

Birth name: Yueh

Elizabeth Pekar, sophomore

Born in Xiangtan, Hunan province, China

Birth name: She Lurong

Translation of birth name: “Dew on a rose”

Maddy Fine, senior

Born in Jiangsu province, China

Birth name: Yangzhou

Mikayla Lane, freshman

Born in Russia

Birth name: Olga Vecelia

Ana Pellegrino, sophomore

Born in Kaliningrad, Russia

Birth name: Ana