By Fatima Magana '22
ALLIANCE, OH- Oldest of three children, Urgela "Cla" Figaro ’23 has a committed spirit to succeed professionally and achieve all her personal goals in life.
Figaro and her two younger brothers were born in Kansas, although they lived in Haiti for a time. Although upon coming back from Haiti, they were placed in foster homes. Since returning to the States, the siblings have not met in person, but they do speak with each other every other month.
“One of my brothers has already graduated high school and has his own production company. The youngest is in middle school and he and I do have a little more confidence to discuss many topics,” said Figaro.
Figaro’s foster parents guided her by helping her discover her interests and touring different college campuses, also.
“My foster parents helped me with my emotional health which gave me the confidence to speak to them about anything,” said Figaro. “I realized that there are still good people in the world.”
As a high school senior, Figaro stayed overnight to experience living on campus. It was at this visit when she made the decision to study at Mount Union thanks to the welcoming faculty, staff, and students she met.
As an international affairs and diplomacy and French double major, Figaro will graduate with two bachelor’s degrees this spring. When choosing a path that would ultimately lead to her desired career, Figaro admits that her Haitian background influenced her career goals. Uncertain of where life will take her after college, she is certain that she wants to help in the Peace Corps while pursuing a job as a translator or a diplomat.
“Having Haitian immigrant parents and Haitian roots influenced who I want to become in the future because I want to see how other countries are perceived and how their policies work,” said Figaro. “I chose French as my second major because I studied it while living in Haiti, along with being intrigued with French pop culture.”
Figaro explained that experiences like traveling to Lake Charles, Louisiana in March 2022 also impacted her persona because she learned about others’ stories while helping with hurricane relief. The trip made her realize that she wants to help other people more than she initially thought.
“I lived in the south side of Haiti, so I was there when the 2010 earthquake happened and living through something like that is very different than just learning about it,” said Figaro. “Therefore, the trip to Louisiana was impactful because I heard people’s stories and I was able to relate to their experience.”
At Mount Union, Figaro has found her second family who pushes her to be the best version of herself while supporting her decisions and goals. Faculty and staff like Dr. Michelle Collins-Sibley, Dr. Michael Grossman, Dr. Jennifer Hall, Dr. Lori Kumler, Dr. Bertrand Landry, and Caitie (Shimp '17) Scott have watched Figaro grow into a responsible and dedicated person.
Grossman, a professor of political science, has served as Figaro’s advisor throughout college along with helping her conduct her senior culminating experience project. Grossman described Figaro as a diligent, good humored, and worldly student.
“I think her background with Haiti helped shape her worldview, making her open to learning new things and immersing herself in new experiences,” said Grossman. “Cla is incredibly clever and sensitive to her surroundings in regard to the issues happening around the world along with being good natured.”
Scott, director of the Mount Union Fund, met Figaro through Sister Circle, a diversity organization led by female students of color. Scott explained that Figaro holds a leadership position in the organization that has helped her gain a valuable skillset.
“Cla is a kind and intelligent young woman who has the perseverance of a warrior,” stated Scott. “I think her entire story in pursuit of receiving a strong education and the impact she has made on campus through her many involvements is an example of exactly that!”
Scott admitted that through Sister Circle, she hoped to help young women of color succeed on campus and in life. However, students like Figaro are who help her by allowing her to exert her passion of helping students find their niche at Mount Union and pursue their career path.
Collins-Sibley, director of Africana studies and professor of gender and sexuality and peacebuilding, explained that she loves how unapologetically Figaro is who she is because she is comfortable in her own skin.
“If I could go back in time, I’d tell 15-year-old Cla that I managed to graduate high school and graduate college. I would also tell her that it is okay to accept change,” said Figaro.
Figaro, lastly stated that her life motto is “You were born to be real, not perfect.”
She explained that growing up, her biological parents wanted her to be the perfect daughter, top student, and do things right. However, because things do not always turn out how people want them to, Figaro explained that one must lead their own path to success.