Uniting international institutions makes a difference

"Thanks to the extraordinary preparation I received at Open Gate, and the support from the school and Drew University, I have been able to achieve one of my big life-long dreams of studying at a highly regarded university in the USA."

By Mark Kopenski

When the Open Gate Grammar and Primary School located in Babice, Czech Republic (just outside Prague) opened its doors in autumn 2005, the mission was bold, forward-thinking and global. The founders envisioned a school for Czech students looking to be academically challenged in a world-class environment, regardless of the students’ or their families’ financial status.
Over the past 14 years, Open Gate School has established itself as one of the leading schools for international education in the Czech Republic, having added the International Baccalaureate programme in 2009 and sending dozens of students to leading universities overseas.

Aspiration and success
One of Open Gate School’s 2017 IB Diploma graduates was Leoš Malec. He is currently a third-year undergraduate student at Drew University, a highly regarded international liberal arts and science university in Madison, New Jersey, USA. Leoš’s journey required dedicated educators at both the Open Gate School and Drew University to work hand in glove to unite Leoš with his ‘ideal-fit’ institution. Petr Chára the Deputy Headmaster at Open Gate, and Radek Coufal, who directs international admissions for Drew University, provided the vision, support and commitment to ignite Leoš’s student journey from the Czech Republic to America. “Close cooperation
between high schools and university admissions, together with dedicated professional approach on both sides helped Leoš to reach his life dream,” says Petr. “The successful journey of your students is always the biggest award for  any educator,” he says.

The international journey of Leo  Malec
Leoš is originally from Brno (the second-largest city in the Czech Republic). With the assistance of several foundations and the keen admissions work by Petr Chára, Leoš was admitted to board at the Open Gate School in 2009 when he was 11 years old. During his eight years at the school, Leoš was exposed to many opportunities that helped him to develop intellectually, physically, and psychologically. As part of school life, Leoš, along with all other students, was encouraged to ‘give back’, which he did by volunteering his time to help others in need. He learnt sporting skills that led to his interest in competitive sports including representing the school in varsity basketball. And life at the school exposed him to many cultures and languages, leading to fluency in his native Czech plus mastery of English and German. “These and many other factors helped me in the process of applying to universities in the USA and prepared me for a university life abroad,” says Leoš. “For this unique opportunity, I am deeply grateful,” he adds.

Supporting Leo ’s pathway to university
The experiences through his formative years raised Leoš’s aspirations and fuelled his interest in applying to universities in the USA. The Kellner Family Foundation, which had financially supported Leoš during his years at the Open Gate School, agreed to support his advanced achievement at an American university if he gained admission. The partnership that subsequently developed between Open Gate School and Drew University to support Leoš’s selection and application process was crucial to his admissions success, and Leoš is full of praise for the team involved. “Thanks to the extraordinary, first- class preparation I received at Open Gate, the support from Mr Chára, Open Gate’s university counsellor, and Mr Coufal at Drew University, and also the financial support from the Kellner Family Foundation, the Bakala Foundation and the Drew University Scholarship Fund, I have been able to achieve one of my big life-long dreams of studying at a highly regarded university in the USA,” says Leoš. In fact, he not only achieved an admissions offer from Drew, but also gained a significant scholarship.

Life for Leo  in the USA
On 1 September 2017,  Leoš began his journey to Madison. He is now in his third year at Drew University and while many things, both in and out of the classroom, have not come easy, Leoš continues to be motivated by the vast number of new experiences, relationships and opportunities it has opened up for him. “Living in the USA was a culture shock at first, but I’ve got more used to it,” he says. “The biggest differences I’ve noticed between the USA and my country are transportation, diet and the mindset of the people here,” he explains.

Leoš has taken full advantage of what the university has to offer and is an active member of the Drew community, participating, managing and leading several clubs and societies. He is involved in the student government,
in the Economics and Business Society, in an investment fund led by students, in the Leadership Institute, in Club Basketball, the Student Alumni association, and the German Club, as well as working odd jobs for spending money. He has also been exposed to civic engagement by twice speaking at the Rotary Club International Madison chapter, where he has shared his story of ‘Coming to America’ and insights into his native Czech Republic culture.

As for academic life, Leoš is majoring in economics and minoring in German and data science, and is currently competing for a place in Drew University’s highly competitive and selective Wall Street programme. This unique off-campus experience – a semester-long immersion in the financial markets – was one of the main reasons Leoš was attracted to Drew. He is looking to leverage the Wall Street experience into a summer 2020 internship in investment banking or wealth management in New York City.

The aspiration that was nurtured at Open Gate School, and further developed at Drew, continues to flourish for Leoš. “After my graduation in May 2021, my plans are to use my OPT [optional practical training: the US government’s international student work programme] for another internship, or a full-time, entry-level position on Wall Street,” he says. “This is my next big goal and dream.” With Drew University’s deep connections to Wall Street, and the experiences and support that have led him to where he is today, there’s no telling where Leoš will go next.

Uniting international institutions makes a difference

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