(WKBN) – On a Monday afternoon in early May, right after dismissal, four girls sat together on the stage and talked about their lives together. How they were all adopted from China, brought to Boardman as babies, raised together as friends and remained close while attending Boardman High School.

“We grew up together,” said senior LiLi DiMuzio about their relationships.

Junior Emily Choleva said they’d known each other “before we could even comprehend words.”

Between 2004 and 2006, all four girls — DiMuzio, Choleva, senior Kira Vasko and junior Zoey Fick-Mills — were adopted from China. Their parents were all from Boardman.

“We were brought together by our parents,” said LiLi. “Our parents were in the same adoption organization and so just through connections, we found each other.”

The parents of the four girls are as much a part of the journey as the girls themselves.

“I always said I was going to adopt a little girl from China,” said Kira’s mother Karen Vasko, a first-grade teacher in Poland. “I don’t know why I felt that way. I don’t know the reason.”

Bob Fick and his wife Kelly Stevens adopted Zoey in 2006, driven in part by the Chinese government’s policies at the time.

“You know, the one child policy,” said Fick, an elementary school teacher in Campbell. “The way the female was devalued in China.”

Fick and his wife traveled to China and adopted Zoey from an orphanage where mothers waited outside to drop off their baby girls. The people in China were, in their own way, happy to see them go.

“You would hear people on the street, like elderly females, saying, ‘Lucky baby, lucky baby,'” said Fick.

“And they wanted to touch them,” said Sharon DiMuzio, LiLi’s mother, an art teacher in Poland. “They kept wanting to touch LiLi and I said, ‘What are they doing?’ And they said they ‘want some of her luck.'”

Once in the United States, there were trips to the Canfield Fair, birthday celebrations and vacations to the beach. Their parents instilled some of their native culture by throwing Chinese New Year’s parties every year. Though they were always friends, they never attended school together until all four ended up at Boardman High School.

“I wouldn’t say we necessarily lost connection,” said LiLi. “But now that we get to see each other every day, how can you not better connect?

LiLi and Kira are valedictorians of the 2022 class, and both play violin in the orchestra. LiLi is first chair. Kira’s on the tennis team. Zoey’s in the running for valedictorian next year. She and Emily are on the golf team. Emily played Cinderella in the school play and was a lead vocalist in Boardman’s Project Mayhem.

None of the girls have any great desire to meet their birth parents.

“At one point in time I had an interest in trying to find them,” said Kira. “But now the world’s different. It’s hard and it probably won’t happen.”

Pam Choleva, Emily’s mother, and a kindergarten teacher in Boardman, adopted a second child from China.

“They never really expressed too much of an interest in hearing about their birth parents or China,” said Pam. “I have pictures. I have a lot. They’re so loved. They’re just looking at now and the future.”

All the girls, however, want to visit China and those who came from orphanages would like to visit them.

None of the girls remember their days in China. All they remember is the United States. When asked if they felt like they won the lottery, they all nodded yes.

“I feel so lucky to be here,” said Zoey. “I have a very privileged life. I’m very grateful for that every day.”