Catalina is a young lady who lives in the Casa Sperantei orphanage in Timisoara, Romania. She, along with two of her brothers, came to live in the Casa Sperantei in 1995 after their mother died. Catalina comes from a family of five siblings, and the two oldest siblings stayed to live with their father. From the beginning Catalina integrated very well into life at the Casa Sperantei. She started to attend school and was a good student, earning the honor of top academic student four years in a row. It was in school that she began to learn English. She supplemented her formal English education with English cartoons which she watched at the orphanage. In Catalina’s opinion, it was from the TV that she really learned the language.
In 1999 Catalina accepted Jesus as her Savior and her life as a Christian began. She continued her educational studies at a local Christian school.
In 2002 the European Union and the Romanian government organized a skills contest for the children living in Romanian orphanages. Catalina wanted to compete in this contest in the area of English knowledge. She proceeded to win the contest at the local level and then went on to win two prizes at the national level. Both the president and prime minister of Romania congratulated her. Catalina and those who won in other skill areas were rewarded with a trip to Brussels, Belgium to attend a parliament meeting. Catalina subsequently was interviewed many times on TV and in the newspapers.
During this time, a lady from Alabama came to the Casa Sperantei to visit. She heard about Catalina and her recent achievements, and offered to help Catalina obtain a scholarship to a university in the United States. Catalina was very happy with this proposition and in 2003 sent in her application. In February of 2004 Catalina received word that she received a scholarship to Jacksonville University in Alabama. She began attending the university in August 2004, excelling academically and securing a scholarship for the 2005-2006 school year as well.