This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore columns by local residents about their lives.
My mother, Ana Figueroa, has always inspired my love of learning. She immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala at age 17 by herself. She never got the opportunity — nor did her family — to go to high school or an upper-level institution.
Because of her experience, she taught me to do my best and to work hard on my education. She reminded me that many people that do not have the same opportunities I have. I have always felt privileged to have the chance to get a good education, which has taught me to take my learning seriously.
This fall, I’ll begin attending the University of Michigan, where I plan to study environmental engineering. My dream would be to work for a big company — like Tesla, Apple, or Google — and find ways to make it more environmentally friendly.
It was in high school that I discovered my passion for the environment, realizing climate change is one of the most pressing issues our world is facing today. Through environmental engineering, I could do my part to help improve our climate.
Nelson Figueroa with his mom, Ana.
As I set my sights on my future, I can’t help but be grateful for a childhood that taught me resilience. Because she is a single parent, my mom spends a lot of her time working.
This forced me to learn how to be independent at a young age. I had to make sure I was on the right track, not only in school but in life. I believe this made me better prepared for the independent lifestyle of college.
At Holland High, I joined an environmental club called S.H.O.R.E. It focused on finding ways to help our school be more environmentally friendly, as well as pick up trash from local beaches. This helped drive my passion for becoming an environmental engineer.
Another of my passions is music. I play the guitar, as well as other instruments. I started a band called Indigo with four friends. Throughout high school, we played at local venues and were working on releasing an album. However, it was put on hold because of COVID-19.
I also like to stay active. In high school, I participated in football, swimming, track and field, and soccer. I hope to continue some of these activities at U-M.
I am blessed to have received the Promise Scholarship. I am very grateful for the opportunity to go to my dream school with the cost covered. It has helped my family tremendously.
I know my mom is very proud of me, but it is because of her that I have grown into the person I am today. I also would not have been able to be successful without the support of my family and friends.
I am excited to go to Ann Arbor this fall, and I am honored to represent the Promise community.
Nelson Figueroa is a 2020 Holland High School graduate, who will be attending the University of Michigan this fall. He is also a 2020 Promise Scholar, a program that provides a free college education.