Helping Hands Reach Higher

Daniela Figueroa

The desire to work hard and effect change sets Farmingdale State College sophomore Daniela Figueroa apart and continues to earn her recognition.

Figueroa, a Psychology major and English minor who lives in Hempstead, was named one of 173 student civic leaders in the Campus Compact’s 2022-2023 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows. The program recognizes students who are committed to making improvements in their own communities and in broader society. Through Campus Compact, students participate in a year-long series of networking and educational opportunities stressing personal, professional, and civic growth.

“I was shocked when my counselor told me about the fellowship,” Figueroa said. “At first I didn’t know what I did to deserve this.”

In June 2022, she is headed to Brown University for almost three months as part of the Summer Research Early Identification Program. The program is designed to prepare students considering pursuing a doctorate. Figueroa plans to research how parent-teacher organizations, school booster clubs, and other parent/community groups affect student outcomes. She is aiming for a career in education, starting as a teacher and then earning a doctorate in educational policy with the goal of becoming a school administrator.

Her 12th grade English teacher understood the struggles immigrants face, and he influenced her decision to be an English teacher and help kids, Figueroa said.

My parents said an education was the best thing we could get here.

“She is a wonderful combination of academic drive and passionate drive,” said Dylan Gafarian, Academic Counselor and the Administrative Coordinator for the Newman Civic Fellowship. “She wants to effect change in the most effective way possible.” He joked that Figueroa is having trouble deciding which one of the causes in which she already is involved to pursue for her fellowship project.

A child of Honduran immigrants, Figueroa said her parents stressed the importance of education from the time she and her older sister were young. “College has been on my mind since I was little,” she said. “My parents said an education was the best thing we could get here.” Her sister graduated from college and is now working as a nurse. “She is my rock,” Figueroa said.

She grew up bilingual, speaking Spanish at home and English at school, and she and her sister spent many hours while growing up reading and translating documents and mail for their parents. Her mother works as a housecleaner and her father as a landscaper. “They made their own schedules and worked very hard," said Figueroa.

While in high school, Figueroa worked for Planned Parenthood, teaching sex education to classmates and mentoring younger students. She also went to Albany to lobby for the passage of bills related to sex education.

Figueroa joked that now she spends most of her time in the FSC library, but she still keeps busy helping freshmen in the RAM program, tutoring students at her former high school, and participating in campus tours when Hempstead High School students come for a visit. She has also been involved with campus cleaning projects. “Anything that has to do with helping the community, I’m part of," she said.

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