Vitaliy Sobko, LCC class of 2008, International Business Administration major, left the corporate world in 2016, and is now the Executive Director and CEO of the non-profit organization Shepherd’s Foundation. Vitaliy and his family live in Ukraine, where he leads Camp Maximum; a camp with a unique program for children and parents, with specially designed facilities that serve those with special needs.
Vitaliy, how did you find the courage to move away from working in a major international corporation to working for a non-profit organization?
In 2016, I decided to stop working for an international corporation and joined a small non-profit organization called Shepherd’s Foundation in order to work with a cause and mission that I really care about. The career change brought a lot of changes: moving my family from Kyiv to a small town; taking a pay cut; pushing myself beyond my limits in order to succeed in this new field. This change has been the most difficult, yet the most rewarding experience so far.
You have been involved with Camp Maximum in Ukraine for some time now. Could you share more about it?
Shepherd's Foundation develops model projects that are reproducible and sustainable all over Ukraine. One such project since 2016 is Camp Maximum. This is a year-round camp with a unique program for children and parents, with specially designed facilities that serve those with special needs. In a country affected by war and resulting economic turbulence, we are developing a project that helps shape the next generation, provides comfort, joy, and love with unique experiences that help each camper challenge themselves, develop new skills and build a strong foundation of faith.
This summer several LCC faculty, led an English language study program, co-organized with Camp Maximum. Could you please share more about the program?
Our program ENCOURAGE, an English language study program was organized in partnership between LCC and Camp Maximum. The program was uniquely designed to help high school students living on the frontline of the war in the East of Ukraine. The objective is to learn the English language but also to help them temporarily escape from their current difficult life circumstances. Since the beginning of the war in the East of Ukraine, security concerns exist for thousands of residents of towns on the frontlines. Night shelling, landmines, and destroyed infrastructure are the backdrop of secondary education for many local students. This sad reality inspired LCC board member Olga Rubel from Ukraine, and former LCC faculty, Roman Hromyk, also from Ukraine, to get behind the idea for the program. In its first year, more than 20 teenagers attended the program and it was a success. Those representing LCC this summer included Gretchen Ketner, English Language Institute Director; Ksenija Ševcova, English Department faculty; and Armine Gasparyan, a sophomore at LCC. In addition to English language courses and leadership training, students participated in various team-building exercises and were challenged physically in the state-of-art extreme sports facilities at Camp Maximum. Each evening, campers were encouraged by faith-based motivational talks around the campfire.
The entire team is very hopeful about the future prospects for this new partnership – as it opens new opportunities for LCC student internships, community outreach, and support.
How do you keep yourself motivated in developing the Camp Maximum project?
I am both excited and stressed about my current work. I am excited because as a CEO I am entrusted to shape and develop the project, which will later impact future generations. Building campgrounds from scratch is not easy. It gets even more difficult and stressful when it is for a non-profit with a sustainable goal in mind. This is the role where my business mindset, love for my country and urge to serve a greater cause all unite. Through Camp Maximum my team can serve a wide range of people. We run exceptional programs that help parents and kids have quality time together and strengthen families around Christian values. Our special needs programs help promote awareness and inclusiveness but also open the doors for these children to participate in exciting camp programs. We have built the first camp in the country where kids in wheelchairs can zip-line, go on a giant swing and try many other things – something most of them never thought was possible! It is the most rewarding part of what I do!
What was the key to your success in getting where you are now professionally?
Consistency, perseverance and hard work are my focus. Following my graduation from LCC, I was consistent and diligent in delivering my best in any job role I held, while trying to learn valuable lessons and being willing to learn from others. Success is not easy. Success requires perseverance and concentration on your desired outcomes. As I look back, LCC helped me develop critical skills, that after many years have proven to be essential and played a primary role in my competitive advantage.
You mentioned that LCC helped you develop the skills necessary to succeed. Would you share more about LCC, its education, and impact on your professional and individual growth?
I found LCC to be a perfect place to help uncover my potential, build confidence, and challenge my values and my approach to life and the future. During my four years at LCC, I learned to think critically – the most important skill for any career! I learned to be an active learner, think independently, reflect on and challenge assumptions and ideas, and to argue based on reason. I also gained more understanding of handling cultural differences, succeeding in marriage and family, and career networking. LCC is a unique institution with a diverse international community that is supportive, open, and encourages intellectual development. It also helps build strong faith and ethical foundations. One of my fondest memories at LCC is of my roommates from Macedonia - Filip and Viktor. I met them in our Karklų dorm room during our freshman year. They had just arrived from a long flight, both tired and very hungry. Trying to be friendly, I offered them milk and cereal, which was the only thing I had. Only later did I learn that the milk was spoiled.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned at LCC?
I learned to be open and willing to change opinions as new facts arise. LCC laid the groundwork, helping identify and challenge my values. I know of very few institutions that take this important aspect of education so seriously, and intentionally engage students in it.
*To learn more about the Camp Maximum, please click on the link: CAMP MAXIMUM