Nathaniel M. Kirkland Scholar: Katianna Figueroa

I came to appreciate this book bag comparison, because it gives me perspective about how to approach the challenges in my life. I am that proud book bag that is learning to adapt and survive every season thrown at me. Like a book bag, I like to feel useful and to support those around me. Nathaniel Kirkland also focused on those who needed assistance and compassion. Through my advocacy work, I could relate to him.

​This year, I have been given the chance to help members of my community register to vote for improvements in our community. Statistics show that many of the young adults do not take the time necessary to get involved in prospering the city of Philadelphia. Therefore, I started a student-led organization at Olney Charter that focuses on civic engagement, leadership, and community service. The organization, Students Speak Out (or SSO) started last year and immediately reached its goal to register over 500 citizens of the city of Philadelphia to vote in this upcoming election. Through SSO, Olney students were able to plant trees with other high school students and those who have retired in the neighborhood of Hunting Park. These trees will help the temperature over the summer cool down, which is good for public health. It also helped both age groups come to an understanding of today’s value as a society to come together to save the environment. When I read about Nathaniel’s life, I could picture him helping to plant trees with us and talking about how important it is to lend a helping hand. 

​My mother’s dream was to have a family and when she finally got it, she appreciated each second of it until she became disabled. Nathaniel’s dream was to help others and achieve the most with his interest in media and law. Now, it is my turn as a “book bag” to achieve my dreams of pursuing a PhD. I hope the legacy I leave along the way is similar to Nathaniel Kirkland’s: an inspiration for change and kindness in this world. 

- ​Katianna Figueroa (Excerpts from personal statement)