Posted by Marilyn Hirsch on Mar 25, 2023
For Sandy Burgers, “the ability to connect” is one of the things she appreciates most about Rotary. And it shows.

Last Fall, Sandy was part of the Rotary team who brought fifteen-year-old Emily Stukalo from Kyiv to Massachusetts, where she is now a sophomore at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School. 

Connections were at the heart of it all: Sandy’s connection to Steve Albright of the Rotary Club of Yarmouth/inbound chairman of Rotary Youth Exchange District (RYE) 7950; Steve and Sandy’s connections to Kyiv Rotary; and Emily’s family connections to that same Kyiv Rotary club. 

As Sandy aptly put it, “this is a great example of how Rotary works—connections!”

Hard to believe given all she’s contributed, but Sandy was kind of a “reluctant Rotarian” at first.
Her “connection” to Rotary began when her daughter Lexie participated in the RYE program while studying abroad in France. Lexie loved the experience and encouraged Sandy and her husband Alan to become hosts. Before moving to Shrewsbury and then Worcester in 2019, they hosted eight RYE exchange students through their local Kansas City Rotary club.  “I was so humbled to have all these parents entrust their kids to me,” she said.
Still, Sandy never considered becoming a member of the Rotary Club of Overland Park where they lived. Until Steve suggested it. “I said I was a stay-at-home-mom, so why would I join Rotary?” Fortunately for that club and the Rotary Club of Shrewsbury, Steve convinced her. 

Sandy views the student exchange program as a huge “peace initiative.” “These kids will be in charge in our world,” she explained. “I want them to have a great experience here in the U.S. and take that back to their countries to create a kind of ‘positive diplomacy.’”

When asked about her goals as the Inbound RYE Coordinator for District 7910, Sandra answered without hesitation. “RYE was life-changing for me and my husband, and I want every club and every member in the district to embrace the program and experience its many incredible aspects.” She continued, “Some people may think they don’t want a stranger in their homes, but these kids aren’t strangers at all. They become yours.”