Nathaniel M. Kirkland Scholar: Sasha Melendez

I grew up in a low income household with a single mother and a little sister. My mother never made it to high school so she continues to be unemployed and cannot find a stable job. We depend entirely on money from the government to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table. It is definitely hard living in our conditions because money has been a constant worry. Making ends meet has always been a major issue for us. We have faced many financial hardships at home such as paying our utilities bill, internet or phone bills, and currently paying for senior dues and prom. We are fed and well taken care of but stress at home is always intense for all of us because of family adversities and financial issues. Living like this can be hard and sometimes can feel hopeless, but I look at it in a way that encourages me to do my very best in school so that I can one day look back and see how much I’ve grown and how determined I was to get out of poverty.​

Learning about Nathaniel allowed me to learn that through service, great things
can happen; not only for others, but for myself as well. I didn’t want to become a
self-centered person who was only worried about achieving my own success, so I
decided to join a youth political community organization made up of high school
students of color in working class communities. Youth United for Change is known for developing the leadership of its members and training them to utilize our people and political power to hold school officials and our local government accountable to meeting the educational needs of Philadelphia public school students. Nathaniel enjoyed helping the community and will always be remembered for his service. Though this was a selfless act, helping others provides motivation and strength to move forward regardless of life’s obstacles.

​I will be attending La Salle University in the Fall of 2018 because I believe that it is at
this institution that I will be able to discover my true self. I will be pursuing a major in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics with a minor in Sociology. I plan on joining an on campus organization for College Democrats and also participating in Civic Engagement work in Youth United for Change’s new and upcoming Alumni chapter. Although I do not know what specific career I want to go into, I do know that I want my career to be somehow tied to social justice work. I receive this scholarship with great appreciation because it means that it puts me a step closer to not having to burden my family with college financial issues.

​- Sasha Melendez (Excerpts from personal statement)