Scholars: Where are They Now
2011 Lilly Scholarship Recipient from Cedar Lake
This summer we caught up with past Lilly Scholarship recipient Kimberly Reppa during a visit back to her family home in Cedar Lake. She stopped by the Legacy Foundation office to chat with us about her college experience, humanitarian work and moving the world forward through science and innovation.
From a young age, Kim’s ambition was clear. By fourth grade she was focused on attending college. “I knew I wanted to have a positive impact and do something meaningful,” Kim said.
Aware that she would need a scholarship to attend college, Kim filled her schedule with rigorous academic and extracurricular activities and graduated from Hanover Central High School ranked number one in her class. In 2011 she received the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship from Legacy Foundation, and attended Purdue University to pursue a career in engineering.
The College Experience
Just as in high school, Kim filled her college schedule with academics and extracurricular activities that were meaningful and challenging to her.
In her first year at Purdue, Kim joined five clubs including Engineers Without Borders, the Purdue Energy Forum and Swipe Out Starvation. Kim talks about the challenges of balancing her course load with volunteering, “I dove in head first like in high school, but found out it was not the same.” She praises her mentor in the Women in Engineering program at Purdue for sharing honestly her experiences. Kim said, “Women in Engineering helped retain me as a student. A lot of times I questioned staying.”
In her sophomore year Kim focused her work and education on environmental studies. She was accepted into a program with the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston - work that she has continued through graduation. She spent her time in the Crew and Thermal Systems Division testing water quality that would support a habitable environment for the flight crew. She also worked to build greater relationships between NASA and the community.
Kim has always married her environmental studies with humanitarian work. As a member of Engineers Without Borders she worked to build water systems in developing nations, traveling to Bolivia and the Dominican Republic.
Even while working at NASA Kim went above her job duties, supporting same-sex rights in the Houston community. Kim chaired the Houston Pride Festival as a member of Out and Allied, a group that supports Johnson Space Center’s LGBT employees. She also joined the Houston Mayor’s Office of Sustainability as a program coordinator for STAR (Sustainability Tools for Assessing and Rating) Communities.
Moving the World Forward through Science and Innovation
Kim recently received her degree in Environmental and Ecological Engineering and was offered a full-time position at NASA. She is also exploring the opportunity to continue her research work at Purdue as a Ph.D. student.
“I want to study how we address grand challenge problems using innovative frameworks.” When talking about creating water supplies in developing nations Kim stated, “it’s not just about the technical aspect of cleaning the water, but how do we also focus on equitable distribution in the delivery.”
Whether she is developing water supply systems or championing equality, we are proud to know that Kim was able to pursue her goals because of the Lilly Scholarship she received from Legacy Foundation. Right now the opportunity is open to another cohort of students – six of whom will receive a four-year education without the burden of student loan debt.
Applications are available at: legacyfdn.org/scholarships. Students must apply by September 9, 2016.