Gross serves at the state coordinator for the World Link Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX). World Link is one of the 14 organizations that cooperate with the State Department in placing and supervising FLEX students during their year in America.
The most recent addition to the Gross household is Yekaterina Nadezhkina from Penza, Russia.
Since coming to America on Aug. 3, she has answered to the name Kate.
It is hard for a student to enter the FLEX program. Ten thousand Eurasia students were interested in coming to the United States. Of those, 1,200 made it. Gross said the students are interviewed four or five times.
"They also take written and oral exams," Gross said. He said the FLEX program was started in 1992 and is funded under the Freedom Support Act through a transfer of funds from the Department of State and USAID.
"The program's goal is to provide an opportunity for high school students from Eurasia (the former Soviet Union) to experience life in a democratic state," he said.
School life is different in Russia than at Koshkonong High School. "My school is a lot bigger. Every day we study a different subject, and we go to school six days a week, not five. Education is a lot more difficult in Russia than it is here," Kate said. Before coming to Koshkonong Kate had made up her mind she wanted to attend the University of Moscow and become an ambassador.
Since arriving in America her interests seem to have changed. She is looking at returning to her home country to study history and anthropology.
Kate is 16 and a senior in Russia. She is also a senior at Koshkonong High School. She is the only exchange student in Missouri through the World Link program.
"All the generations of my family are scientists in Russia. My grandmother is a professor at the University of Moscow. My mother is an ecologist and my dad is a soil scientist. My parents are well educated people." Kate said.
She added that she thinks she gained a lot of her personality from her family. "I am very thankful. I love my family very much," she said.
Kate said one of the first things that impressed her about America is how helpful and friendly everyone is. "People in Russia are too busy, and I think that is a bad thing," she said.
She said to be well educated in Russia a student needs to be able to speak three languages. She speaks Russian, English and French.
She was born in the Soviet Union. It became Russia when she was 3 years old.
"My grandma and grandpa remember the Soviet Union; they still like it. We have a different political system now that is democratic. The Soviet Union practiced socialism," she said.
The only suggestion Kate mentioned about her stay in America so far is she would like to share her experience with another exchange student. "Two exchange students in a town would be better than one. We could understand each other," she said.
Kate said she will remain with the Gross family until May. "Then I will return to Russia to pass my exam for college," she said.