The road to valedictorian is never easy. It’s an achievement that never fails to impress. However, even amongst the accounts of the absolute best and brightest, there will always be stories that shine through. Yuliya Velhan’s story, co-valedictorian of the 2021 graduating class from A.G.B.U Alex and Marie Manoogian School in Southfield, is one of them.

Six years ago, Yuliya emigrated from the Ukraine and didn’t speak English. Today, she’s been accepted to Brown University on a full scholarship with plans to matriculate in the fall and is valedictorian of an impressive graduating class from her high school that produced 33 graduates, 85 college and university acceptances, $4.5 million in total four-year scholarships, including eight full scholarships to the University of Michigan.

The work it took to get from point A to B was arduous to say the least.

“Arriving in the United States with no knowledge of English was more difficult than it may seem,” said Yuliya. “During the first couple of months, when I was assigned homework, I would come home, and my mom and I would translate the whole homework assignment word by word so I could understand what I had to do. It felt as if I would never be able to learn the language. Not only that, but there were only a few other students in my grade who spoke Ukrainian, and they wouldn’t be in every single class with me. Therefore, I was left to figure out most things by myself.”

However, the teachers and staff at A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School went above and beyond to ensure Yuliya’s transition was a smooth one.

“The faculty at Manoogian School truly tried their best to accommodate students who didn’t speak English. Mrs. Babloumian, the ESL teacher, was always there to resolve any issue if it ever came up. In addition, every teacher did their best to help students. While those things might have been small, like allowing ESL students to work in groups, work on a simpler version of an assignment, or simply trying to talk slower while teaching the lesson, all of those things were very helpful along the way. It was evident that the faculty wanted the best for their students and were expecting them to succeed.”

And in Yuliya’s opinion, that fostering environment that the teachers and staff at A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School cultivated made a tremendous difference.

“My parents understood the importance of personalized attention for each student. At a big, public high school, where there are thousands of students, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. On the other hand, here at Manoogian, the teachers know every single student in the school and can quickly notice if a student needs help. This type of nourishing environment allows students to build bonds with teachers and grow both academically and personally.”

Now, with diploma in hand, Yuliya is set to head off to Brown University this fall with plans of double majoring in computational biology and public health. Yuliya already has plans of pursuing a master’s degree and hopes to one day work for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention—goals she’ll undoubtedly achieve with ease as she has displayed with her accomplishments in high school.

For more information about A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School, please contact Dr. Hosep Torossian at