Triumph Over Tragedy: Maldonado Is An Example of Perserverance


Claire Sophie Malinka-Thompson, Staff Writer

In a few months, Lola Maldonado will be sitting in her dorm room at Brown University in Rhode Island. The amount of studying required at an Ivy League school likely won’t allow her a lot of time for self-reflection.

But in an honest moment with herself, Maldonado should take a moment to step back and really admire what she has accomplished.

Not simply because she is at Brown, nor because she was the Highland Sterling Scholar of Science. Or that she graduated from the Highland IB Program. And not because she passed a Sustainability Initiative for the Salt Lake City School District to convert the district to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2040.

It’s because getting to that point came in the way of life telling her over and over that this should not be possible. But she made it anyway.

At the beginning of her junior year of high school, Maldonado found out that her stepfather had passed away. If that wasn’t enough to deter her, she was hit by a car at the beginning of her senior year and was left with nerve damage and a traumatic brain injury.

Nobody would have blamed her for choosing an easier path.  It seemed that the universe was telling her to give up. But Maldonado persisted simply by putting one foot in front of the other. Literally. She ran.

“I was able to manage everything by staying involved in school and keeping up track. I went to practice the next day and I think it taught me a lot about what other people are going through, because you never really know,” Maldonado said. “You just have to be kind and not hold a grudge.”

Despite life smacking her in the face over and over again, she was able to walk away stronger than before. She rose willing to keep on pushing and committing to the things that mattered to her the most.

Her mother, Kris Kaly, has watched her daughter go through all of these experiences and fight to be where she is.

“Rather than dwelling on her losses, she focuses her energy on things that are still within her control. Like applying for college and maintaining her academic standing,” Kaly said. “She also worked to help others, like volunteer work.”

Not only has Maldonado committed to her own healing and success, but she has also helped many others in the process. Maldonado has proved herself a loyal and kind friend and is willing to help anyone who needs it. She has dedicated herself to climate justice, superior academic standing and kindness.

Maldonado is most passionate about her fight for climate justice. She has devoted countless hours and efforts to help protect the environment. She has worked with the District Sustainability Task Force, she is currently part of the Utah Youth Environmental Solutions to develop sustainability and climate justice curriculum. Along with all these unique things, she also started the Highland environmental club.

“Lola has courageously and quickly faced adversity as well as staying focused on her leadership goals,” Kaly said. “She has taught others how to stay engaged with life and know that the difficult times won’t last forever.”

Her determination and resilience are something that should be admired by all. The many difficulties that she has faced are something that most people wouldn’t have to experience in their life and yet everyone has something to learn from her.

“Just be happy and don’t hold grudges. It gets better and every day is going to be different,” Maldonado said.