As thousands of freshmen embark on their college careers at Arizona universities, two of them will stand out as having been named recipients of the Young Humanitarian Scholarship and Award.
The annual distinction is bestowed by the Tempe Community Council through a grant from the Ramsey Social Justice Foundation.
Nathaniel Thompson, a Corona del Sol grad, and Karla Daniela Salazar Chavira, who graduated from Tempe High, each will receive a one-time gift of $2,000 to be used for tuition or other expenses in support of their college education.
Cindy Kominska, executive director of Tempe Community Council, noted that the award is generally only given to one graduate each year.
“It is unprecedented we had two candidates this year, but the selection committee felt both Nathaniel and Daniela were both deserving of the award and made it possible to honor both,” Kominska said.
The scholarship and award were created to support young humanitarians who have passion, dedication and commitment to make a change for the better in their community. Those who win the award are service-minded leaders who are deeply committed to public service and to improving the lives of others.
Nathaniel has been volunteering with the special-needs community since he was in third grade through programs like Special Olympics, Best Buddies and Peer Tutoring.
As part of his efforts to serve, Nathaniel built wheelchair-accessible planter boxes on wheels for participants in Tempe’s Life Skills Enrichment Afterschool Program.
The planters are inclusive in many ways, he said, because any individual can participate no matter their ability level.
Thompson was able to donate over $2,400 worth of adaptive recreational equipment through his fundraising efforts.
The donations include planting supplies, tools, seeds, cooking equipment and utensils, books, puzzles, technology (iPads, tablets and Fire Sticks) and sensory tools and toys used for learning activities that can further support education and adaptive learning within LEAP.
Nathaniel will use his scholarship toward his studies at Arizona State University and plans to continue serving the community while in school by establishing a program that provides ASU students with opportunities to support and better understand the special needs community. He’s hoping his fellow students will come to see that one person at a time can make a real difference for an underserved community.
“My hope is that this program would connect experienced volunteers with students who are looking to get involved in providing community service and help them to learn more about this amazing group of people,” Nathaniel said. “My dream would be for the program to create a welcoming, encouraging, and comfortable atmosphere for interested potential volunteers that in return would increase the amount of ASU students that support and engage with the community.”
Nathaniel, a Barrett Honors College student, plans to study supply chain management at ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
Daniela, the other Young Humanitarian Scholarship and Award recipient, is a Grand Canyon University student studying mechanical engineering. Like Nathaniel, she plans to continue serving the community.
As an undocumented person, she knows what it is like to have to advocate for herself on a daily basis and that you can’t go down without a fight. She believes this is the biggest reason why she is committed to service, as she grew up doing everything on her own and giving back allows her the right to be there for someone through their struggles.
“Throughout high school, I volunteered any way I could, whether it was by offering my translating services to the families of the incoming freshman or by advocating for in-state tuition for Arizona Dreamers with Aliento,” Daniela said.
Volunteering allowed her to grow as a person, in ways she could have never imagined. “Community service has become a very important part of my life and most importantly who I am,” Daniela said.