The desire to work hard and effect change sets Farmingdale State College’s Daniela Figueroa,’24, apart and continues to earn her recognition.

Figueroa, an Applied Psychology major and English minor who lives in Hempstead, not only earned the 2022 President’s Award for Student Leadership, but was also one of 173 student civic leaders in the Campus Compact's 2022-2023 cohort of Newman Civic Fellows, as well as being named a RAM and Sillcox Scholar.

This is all business as usual for Figueroa, who also tutors peers, participates in research opportunities, and volunteers in her hometown.

The Newman 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.”

“She is a wonderful combination of academic drive and passionate drive,” explained Dylan Gafarian, Acting Director of the RAM Program and the Administrative Coordinator for the Newman Civic Fellowship. “She wants to effect change in the most effective way possible.” 

Figueroa was also selected for the Summer Research Early Identification Program, which exposes students to the work necessary to complete a doctorate. She went to Brown University in June 2022 and researched how parent-teacher organizations, school booster clubs, and other parent/community groups affect student outcomes. Her goal is a career in education, starting as a teacher and then earning a doctorate in educational policy and becoming a school administrator.

Figueroa’s 12th grade English teacher understood the struggles immigrants face, and influenced her decision to be an English teacher and help students, she noted.

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.

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

These days, Figueroa 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. “Anything that has to do with helping the community, I’m part of," she said.

She is also grateful to be part of a FSC community with so many unique individuals and opportunities. “The beautiful campus would be nothing without the diverse stories walking its halls,” Figueroa said at FSC’s President’s Gala in November 2022. “Every single individual has their own unique laugh, unique struggles, and unique achievements, and somehow, we were all destined to be on the same timeline on the same campus, sharing it with one another.”