In September 2016, an HMC East European Scholar joined Roedean for the first time. An excited, yet slightly nervous, Maria Paduroiu from Romania arrived with a steely confidence and a determination to make the very best of the opportunity. She had been chosen as one of 78 students coming to boarding schools in the UK from 14 former Eastern European countries. Straight away, it was clear that she was going to make an impression, and a difference.
Maria arrived at Roedean as a 6-time World Karate Champion. In Romania, she trained intensively with her coach, but this was not possible when she came to boarding school. She quickly came to the realisation that coming to Roedean might mean that she would have to sacrifice her dream, but she was determined to work independently to see if she could maintain her exceptional standard. Not only did she have to keep up her training, but somehow she also had to raise funds to travel to competitions – she quickly began to run her own karate classes at a local gym and also found an entrepreneur who sponsored her travel. In her Lower Sixth year, we were delighted that she became World Champion for the seventh time.
Nevertheless, Maria is far more than just a karate champion – she was elected by the rest of the school to be the Charity Prefect in 2017-2018. Given her personal circumstances, she feels particularly passionately about supporting those who need help, and her ideas for charity fund-raising were both innovative and considered. The most impressive of many, many ideas was to collect donations from everyone in school last Christmas, and then preparing nearly 100 ‘shoe-boxes’, making sure that each box contained a piece of clothing, some food, hygiene products, some stationary to keep them busy, and a hand-written letter from the girls. One Sunday afternoon, she and her friends battled the cold and the winds in Brighton to find people who needed their help – half of the boxes were given to homeless people they found, while the other half are going to different charities that help the homeless. A number of the recipients commented on how beautifully personal the letters were, and what a difference they made.
Maria has thrown herself into everything Roedean has to offer – she has achieved academic success (she achieved ABB at A Level, along with an A at EPQ, and she will be reading Criminology at Lancaster University in October), she is a pro-active young woman with a keen social conscience, and hugely popular and dynamic. But on top of all that, in May 2018, in the midst of her final preparations for her A Levels, Maria travelled home to Romania and became National Karate Champion again, despite dislocating her knee in the first match, and has qualified for the European Championships in Slovenia in Autumn 2018 – she is the epitome of a ‘rising star’. Who would bet against her realising her dream to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics?