Rustic Spirit Spotlights: Kateria, Anna and Anya
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Rustic Spirit Spotlights: Kateria, Anna and Anya

In Rustic Spirit Spotlights we highlight young people around the world who are creating positive change in their communities. Not only have they made a difference, but they’re showing other young people they can change the world too.

These amazing teens are working hard to better their communities. We’re honored to recognize them!

Kateria Knight
Age 18
Wharton High School
Wharton, Texas

Living about 25 miles from the ocean, Kateria has found the local beach trashed by visitors with numerous non-biodegradable items. For the last five years, she has been picking up trash on a weekly basis! Kateria has recruited her family members to help conserve the beach for the years to come.

In college, Kateria will major in biology on a pre-med track to become a pediatric doctor. In addition to becoming a pediatric doctor, she hopes to use her education to help and inspire others on their journey of higher education as well. In her spare time, Kateria enjoys reading young adult romance and baking traditional foods to learn about other cultures. Her favorite book is Fault in our Stars and she recently baked Paczki, a traditional Polish dessert!

Kateria says go for it! Never underestimate yourself or limit your ability to make a difference in your community. Don’t compare yourself to others, but always strive to be better than what you were yesterday.

Anna Valpiani
Age 17
Bishop Gorman High School
Las Vegas, Nevada

With over 110+ hours in community service, Anna spends most of her weeks volunteering with various organizations. Every week she volunteers as a Patient Care Ambassador at a local hospital to ensure that patients recovering from orthopedic surgery are comfortable and acts as a communication link between nurses and doctors.

Anna also acts as a Mandarin-English translator for the Healthy Americans and Pacific Islanders medical clinic, a non-profit dedicated to filling in healthcare gaps between the AAPI community in Las Vegas. She tutors weekly for Club Christ, an organization dedicated to providing accessible education for students in underserved areas, and also recently organized a snack drive that collected over 50 donations for the club.

With a goal of making healthcare more accessible to all through her various efforts, Anna is also a legislative ambassador for the American Cancer Society in Nevada that works to approve legislation for cancer preventative measures, and is a council member on the Immunize Nevada Youth Advisory Council, making health information accessible to younger generations.

In college Anna intends to major in either epidemiology or public health. She loves to read and watch movies in her free time, especially zombie media. Anna’s current favorite reading is Theories of International Politics and Zombies: Apocalypse Edition by Daniel W. Drezner.

Anna encourages others to just go out and do it! Look for the gaps in your community that you believe you can fill and take initiative in filling them. Look online or ask around in your community for opportunities–there’s always more to be done. And don’t get discouraged when you don’t see an immediate change; some things take time!

Anya Nguyen
Age 16
Jefferson Virtual High School

Anya co-founded her school’s garden club and was the editor-in-chief of the school’s newspaper High Voltage last semester. In this role, she motivated the entire staff and worked hard to produce accurate and accountable articles. Anya is also crocheting hats to donate to the non-profit organization Operation Gratitude.

Although she will still research and explore what other fields have to offer, Anya plans to major in electrical engineering to pursue a career where she’s involved in robotics. In her free time she enjoys crocheting, making crafts, learning new things and picking up new hobbies.

Anya says don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone every once in a while. It’s worth the experiences you’ll make.

Nominate a Student

Do you know a student doing valuable work that deserves to be recognized? Nominate them here! Are you making an impact? Tell us about your work here.

Make Change

Interested in creating change in your community? Check out our guide and learn how to make an impact as a student.

At Rustic Pathways, our goal is to make positive contributions to the communities we visit through responsible travel operations and community service projects that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.