Katherine Foronda, 19

Education advocate

Her story: As a freshman at Eldorado High, Kat witnessed an angry substitute tell a class that they would never be able to afford college, so they should just give up now. Between that deflating message and growing up in an impoverished three-bedroom household with 13 others, she almost did give up her dream of a career in science. Then as a senior, she got help from the local Communities in Schools program, which offers community resources to help disadvantaged students stay in school. This boost inspired her to launch her own community service in March 2010: a food and peer-to-peer study program called the Eldorado Resource Center, for those who were also struggling with grades and hunger. She helped 300 students that year, and she went to Capitol Hill to speak at an education reform conference about her experiences. She also appeared in a commercial about her peer-to-peer program on Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN. For her efforts, she was named a Youth Superstar by earning the national Jefferson Award for Public Service, given to only 10 American kids each year.

School: UNLV, sophomore

Extras: Kat is pursuing a degree in physics at UNLV, where she earned an award for Outstanding Student Involvement for the 2010-11 school year. She is an intern with Feeding America, which funds more than 200 food banks across the nation. She recently lobbied Congress on behalf of the nonprofit to discuss ways to relieve hunger. As a public speaker, she now gets paid to speak at various events on hunger and educational issues. For example, in April she spoke at the Feeding America Summit at The Mirage.

What she’ll be doing in 10 years: “I plan on having graduated with my master’s degree in one of the many fascinating realms of physics. I will contribute my scientific findings to the global community, and by then I hope to have enough money to give out merit-based scholarships to intelligent children in areas of the nation where poverty levels are high. I will also continue to be politically active in raising awareness of the dire issues that lessen our community’s ability to progress, protecting low-income families so that they may truly have the opportunity to prosper in America.”

What they’re saying about her: “Kat is simply the most extraordinary teenager I know,” says Julie Murray, co-founder and former CEO of Three Square food bank. “She has accomplished so much in her young life, but I truly believe the best is yet to come.” Adds Lou Antoine, former director of the Fellows Academy, a Communities in Schools program that encourages at-risk kids to pursue the careers of their dreams: “Katherine is one of the kindest and most caring people I have met in my 25 years of working with young people. She is a born leader, and I expect her to make a difference in our world someday. She is already changing her community and all the people she touches with her leadership and community-service work.”