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For Westmont Student Filipp Kozachuk, Family’s Move to U.S. Fueled Desire for Education

The Russian immigrant has been selected to speak at Thursday's South Coast Business & Technology Awards

Westmont College student Filipp Kozachuk will speak at this year’s South Coast Business & Technology Awards, where Westmont will also be honored for Excellence in Service.

Kozachuk grew up in Santa Barbara and graduated from San Marcos High School, but he speaks Russian at home and maintains citizenship in his birthplace, Ukraine, as well as in the United States.

According to Kozachuk, his parents left their home in Kiev when he was just 2 years old and his mother was six months pregnant with his sister. The decision to immigrate to the United States followed many years of repression under the Soviet Union, an experience that helped shape his voracious drive for education.

“My family was persecuted by the KGB and was not given the same opportunity that I now have,” Kozachuk told Noozhawk. “All I can express is gratitude for freely being given the choice to go to school, and further more, be granted religious freedom.”

Kozachuk said the struggles his family endured as immigrants settling in the United States were also great, as they spoke no English at the time of their arrival and found that the living costs in Santa Barbara presented incredible financial challenges.

Today, Kozachuk studies economics and business with an emphasis in finance and entrepreneurship at Westmont and says having the opportunity to study on the scenic campus in Montecito is possible due to the generosity of the community his parents became a part of so many years ago.

“It’s been really great to grow up here because how much everyone gives back, even putting local kids through college,” Kozachuk said.

In addition to the South Coast Business & Technology scholarship, Kozachuk has received scholarships from Westmont for his embodiment of scholastic diversity as well as his abilities as a vocalist.

Kozachuk said his participation in a business plan competition this past fall as part of an entrepreneurship class greatly enhanced his application for his recent scholarship. He compared the competition to the television show Shark Tank, in which contestants pitch products to investors in hopes of receiving funding to launch their businesses.

His team developed a business model centered on wireless digital file storage devices designed for professional photographers — just one of many fields in which he has experience.

Between attending classes, singing with the Westmont College Choir, playing piano at the college chapel and working at a local coffee shop, Kozachuk still finds time to ride his mountain bike on local trails and play intramural volleyball.

Other honorees of Thursday’s South Coast Business & Technology Awards include Barbara Rosenblum, Entrepreneur of the Year; Sonos, Company of the Year; Joanne Funari, Executive of the Year; and Larry Barels, Pioneer Award.

Noozhawk intern Jordon Niedermeier can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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