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Bio Sophomore Wins "Pay It Forward" Scholarship

April 24, 2012

Biology sophomore Kyla LaFond was named the winner of the 7th Annual “Pay It Forward” Scholarship from CURE Auto Insurance and 94.5 PST. The $15,000 award is given to a young adult who has “performed unselfish acts, compassionate works or community action.”

Since her junior year in high school, Kyla has traveled to Honduras each spring with the Henry B. King Medical Brigade to provide medical care and assistance to impoverished residents. The annual brigades consist of U.S. medical practitioners, students and translators who set up temporary medical facilities in local churches and schools. Kyla assisted in the pharmacy during her first year, filling and distributing medication, and has since had the opportunity to work with residents in rehabilitation and pediatrics.

Kyla’s outreach work does not stop there; she also spends her winter weekends as an adaptive ski instructor, often traveling over 200 miles to Windham, NY to teach individuals with physical disabilities. She fell in love with the program while on a family ski trip to Colorado: while many of her peers would have hit the slopes on their own, Kyla sought out and assisted an adaptive ski class taught by the National Sports Center for the Disabled. She was instantly hooked and has been involved with adaptive ski programs ever since.

This compassion and goodwill landed Kyla a spot as one of the five finalists honored by CURE and 94.5 PST at a dinner reception on February 23, 2012. And it was there that she learned she was the winner of the “Pay It Forward” scholarship.

“We are so honored and proud of all of our finalists because they all, in their special way, teach us how to serve humanity and live our lives as true citizens of this planet,” said Eric S. Poe, Esq., CPA and Chief Operating Officer of CURE. “Kyla’s tremendous dedication to her own family and to the lives of the less fortunate around the world is an example of how one individual can make a meaningful difference.”

Since coming to Drexel, Kyla has continued to find ways to help others. In the spring of 2011 she volunteered for the first Drexel student medical brigade to Honduras, organized by CoAS students Brian Leung (Chemistry ’11) and Maria Caperelli (Biology ’11). Kyla is currently working with four other biology students and the Global Brigades organization to coordinate a trip for 2012—this time a public health brigade to Honduras, which will be open to all students in the Philadelphia area.

The daughter of an engineer and a former nun, Kyla says her drive to help others was inspired by her family, particularly her mother Therese.

“My mother always wanted to be a missionary, working with poverty stricken people who had medical and learning disabilities. She wanted to go to far away countries and help people,” says Kyla. “And it’s funny, however many years later, I have the same mentality.”

While she may not have become a missionary, Kyla’s mother found other ways to make a difference. After having eight children of her own, she and her husband John adopted six more. Kyla is the youngest of the fourteen.

“I think that’s where I get my desire to work with people with disabilities: because my mom, when she started adopting children, would only take hard-to-place children—children who had been rejected by other families,” says Kyla. “But there was always this push to focus on the ability, not the disability."

While a number of Kyla’s siblings have physical or learning disabilities, including muscular dystrophy, fetal alcohol syndrome, and VATER syndrome, this focus on ability has led many of them to successful careers and lives of service. Four of her five sisters are nurses. Two of the four women graduated from West Point and served in the military, one as an engineer and the other as a military policewoman in Afghanistan. Another sister, currently in the Army, returned with her husband last summer from a tour in Iraq. Three of her eight brothers were also in the military: one served in the Navy and two others graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy and the Coast Guard Academy. Currently, her brothers are working in the fields of business, medicine, law, engineering and communications.

“My mom doesn’t take any nonsense; no whining or complaining. Her attitude is: ‘These are the cards you were dealt; now win with them.’”

It seems Kyla’s drive to help others seeps into almost every area of her life: in addition to being a resident assistant, she is a member of Drexel’s Habitat for Humanity group and a peer mentor at a local 5th grade class. This year, she even found time to start the Drexel Fencing Club, which will begin competing in the fall of 2012.

To learn more about the Drexel public health brigade, contact Kyla LaFond ( or Hannah Brady (

Interested in joining the Drexel Fencing Club? Contact