Every year, 32BJ, one of the largest unions in the city, awards scholarships to members’ children. This year, one of those students is Aldina Klapija, a Jackson Heights resident.
The 17-year-old beat out dozens of applicants with her good grades and essay on her hero, Mohatma Ghandi.
Klapija recently graduated from The Young Women’s Leadership School in Astoria with a 99 percent average and was one of the 9 percent of students in New York City to pass the chemistry Regents. She also left quite the imprint regarding social issues.
“I founded an organization on girl empowerment,” she said. “We want girls to fight for their beliefs.”
The Jackson Heights resident and her group raised funds for a staff member suffering from leukemia, discussed domestic violence and spread awareness on an array of women’s issues.
“It felt really good to be able to fund some of the staff members’ treatment,” Klapija said. “It made me feel like I was making a difference.”
In addition, she joined the chorus at her school and starred in “Little Shop of Horrors” her senior year.
Klapija will receive $5,000 a year toward her tuition at St. John’s University in Jamaica Estates.
“I want to study biology on a pre-med track and eventually become a pediatric neurologist,” Klapija said. “I’m really interested in how the brain functions and I love to work with children, and being a pediatric neurologist will allow me to work with autistic kids and other children who need help.”
Like most teenagers, Klapija is anxious to begin college but said she remains confident she will be able to handle the transition.
“I’m most worried about making new friends, because I’m used to my friends from my old school,” she said. “But I know that’s part of the experience and everyone else is coming in not knowing anyone either.”
While her eyes are set on the future, Klapija said she got a lot out of attending The Young Women’s Leadership School, which goes from sixth to twelfth grade.
“My school taught me that women are not always at the top point in the work field in certain positions and we have to change that,” she said. “We have to close the gender gap and we have to make our dreams heard. We, as women, know there are obstacles along the way but no man or other figure should hold us back from achieving.”