January 17th, 2009
01:50 PM ET

A dream come true – riding down Pennsylvania Avenue

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/17/inaug.nina.culver.jpg caption="Nina Karas, a horseback rider from Culver Academies, prepares to ride in Tuesday's inaugural parade." width=292 height=320]

Nina Karas
Inaugural Parade Horse Rider

To most kids, looking back to their first day of fourth grade does not seem so memorable, but for me it was one of the scariest days of my life.

Walking into a classroom full of energetic kids who have known each other all of their life, being the new girl was intimidating. The fact that I had a thick Russian accent did not give me the easiest passage into the society of the American kids.

I grew up in a small city near the Black Sea, Zeleznavodsk. The neighborhood was dirty and poor. The life of a Russian child growing up in Zeleznavodsk could not compare to the one that most American kids have. The toys were limited, the number of safe playgrounds was low, and team sports were not an option.

When I was nine years old, I came to America (through adoption). My life had changed overnight, and it was very overwhelming. As I continued to grow up, I realized the opportunities that were coming at me at a fast pace and I could hardly keep up. My parents were my mentors, and they pushed me to always do my best, and to never settle for anything less.

Seventh grade was the first time I visited the Culver Academies. I was very curious about the famous summer camps, and begged my mom to take me for an open house. We took a tour of the campus and the moment I stepped into the castle-style riding arena, my mouth fell to the ground.

The stable was full of over 100 beautiful black horses, and I had the opportunity to ride them all. At that moment, I realized that a few weeks in the summer at this magical place would not satisfy me. On that day, I made up my mind to attend the Culver Academies for high school.

I have dreamed of riding in the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Parade since my seventh grade year, and this could not be more of a dream come true. As Barack Obama says “America is a land of big dreamers and big hopes”. I have always had big dreams that are finally coming true as I prepare to ride down Pennsylvania Avenue in one of the most memorable Inaugurations in history of the United States.

Filed under: Inauguration
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Djuro Bajic

    Nina cestitam ti i zelim ti da istrajes ,da ti se ostvare sve zelje koje si smislila,budi uporna jer samo tako ces uspeti .Pozdravljam vas sve zajedno,javi te se. cao

    January 19, 2009 at 2:35 am |
  2. NM

    There are many stories of inspiration to be found at the Culver Academies. One of the instructors for the boys Black Horse Troop is an Army Reservist who has already been deployed once to Iraq, is about to deploy on his second trip away, only this time to Afghanistan. Robin Seims, who has been to 4 inaugurals since he began instructing horsemanship at Culver, will be riding with the troop down Pennsylvania Ave just weeks before his second deployment, Mr. Seims is a great example of why this Academy ranks at the top of the College Prep Schools in this nation. He truely embodies the Academy's slogan of "By Example". His selflish sacrifice is greatly appreciated, and admired, and we wish him well as he serves our country. Godspeed.

    January 18, 2009 at 11:17 pm |
  3. JQQQ

    Gosh, when I was your age I never head of, 'Pennsylvania Avenue' or ' Inaugural Parade'. And to tell you the truth up until this week I didn't know there was a Parade. And I'm old enough to be your grandparent.

    Again, Congratulations!

    January 18, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  4. Stacey Mikler

    Nina –

    WOW! Remarkable – Sincerely remarkable. I am at a loss for the right words to say which believe me just doesnt happen very often. Enjoy the moment as it truly is an accomplishment and yikes to your resume when you put one together.........(hee hee) OMG!

    January 18, 2009 at 7:29 pm |
  5. Donna ( Nada and Mike's friend)

    Dearest Nina,

    Brava !!! I know your mom is overwhelmed with Pride.
    This milestone represents historic moments for more reasons than one.
    You should truly understand now, "YES YOU CAN."
    Ride well young lady, May God Be With you on Tuesday and every day.



    January 18, 2009 at 2:24 pm |
  6. ashok choudhury

    Hi Nina,
    feels great to know that your dream fulfilled.
    Just go on celebrating the spirit of America.
    Best of luck

    January 18, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  7. Joyce Stauffer and the Girls

    Dear Nina, Good luck and have fun living your dream! We will be watching for you and enjoying the experience along with you. What a great opportunity! Enjoy this historical event, write down everything you can in a journal for surely you will want to remember all of it and tell the story for a long time to come. Can't wait to hear it! Love

    January 18, 2009 at 10:12 am |
  8. Tricia, Mike - Michael & Kaitlyn

    Oh, Nina! The path that God has chosen for you and your very proud Parents, is one that is truly a miracle! We will be watching for you as you so proudly ride in this historical moment. We remember so well the moment your Mother found you, "this is our daughter." With love, pride and joy, we share with all of you this incredible life God has put you in. We can't wait to hear and read more...With love, Tricia

    January 18, 2009 at 10:07 am |
  9. Bernhardt family

    we are waiting to see you ride your dream...you are a special young lady and we are all behind you! you're parents are so proud of you...go girl go

    January 18, 2009 at 9:43 am |
  10. Jen

    Congratulations on realizing your dream.

    January 18, 2009 at 8:03 am |
  11. Linda Newton


    We are so excited for you. You are quite the inspiration to so many both young and old. Your perserverance and kind heart will take you far in your journey of life. We will be watching your movements down Pennsylvania Avenue from Martina Franca, Italy. We are so proud of you. Have a wonderful time.
    Linda and John Newton

    January 18, 2009 at 6:20 am |
  12. Kum George and Kuma Helen

    Kumica Nina,
    We are so proud of you!!! We will be watching TV with pride and smiles.
    We love and miss you.
    Kumovi Runjo

    January 18, 2009 at 12:57 am |
  13. Annie Kate


    Enjoy your ride – this will be you will always remember and treasure. I'm so glad you have this opportunity.

    January 18, 2009 at 12:52 am |
  14. KIm

    Oh my ...beautiful ! This is going to be great and what a wonderful story ! Pretty cool there is going to be a parade and we'll be watching. Sounds like an awesome school and love that horse ! Congradulations & heels down ! Stay in the saddle and lean with the trees ! Go Nina !

    January 17, 2009 at 10:15 pm |
  15. Ann-Marie

    Hi Nina,

    How appropriate that Tuesday will be a day of dreams come true, for everybody from a poor Russian girl (you) that will ride a shiny black horse in the Presidential Parade, to a poor Romanian girl (me) that has lived to see Communism fall, to a poor black boy (President Obama) who grew up to become President of America, to a country full of poor people that have been ostracized all their lives and whom can now say "the President is one of our own" – what a moment of pride for all of us, here the true land of opportunities.
    Again, congratulations, girl – have a ball; I know I will ...

    January 17, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  16. Sylvia

    Another thrill for America. Where else could a youngster find a home and a glory path. You must be an outrageous girl! Brava, brava to you and your parents. (birth parents and adoptive)

    January 17, 2009 at 6:06 pm |
  17. Rev Denise Michel


    What a wonderful opportunity for you!! Your parents must be beside themselves with love and pride! Good luck on this very special day. I hope your parents videotape and take still photos of every step of the journey for you.

    We will watch for you on the TV, since we can't be there in person. ;~}

    {{{hugs}}} Rev Dee

    In Love and Light...
    Rev Denise Michel...

    January 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  18. Larry

    I always enjoy the extraordinary teamwork of horse and rider as one. The most magnificent parades I've had the privilige to view took place in Mexico City and in Madrid.

    Best wishes to all participants:)

    January 17, 2009 at 3:00 pm |