Meet Kianni Figuereo, the newest AL DÍA Felix Varela Fellow
The 2021 Chestnut Hill College graduate and North Philly native represents the young voice this fellowship is hoping to empower.
Kianni Figuereo has always felt she had a knack for communicating with others.
“But I’ve always strived to do it in different ways, to be able to speak to multiple audiences,” she said.
When it came time to choose a major at Chestnut Hill College, she naturally gravitated towards a major in communications.
Coupled with a double minor in English Literature and Religious Studies & Philosophy, the college experience allowed Figuereo to navigate different forms of media and communication methods that could be valuable in reaching different audiences.
“I want to be able to reach and inspire as many people as possible in different ways,” she said.
Whether it’s through words, graphics, film or a combination of them, the aspiring creative director wants to utilize each of those avenues as forms of storytelling.
Outside the classroom, Figuereo became involved with La Voz Latina, the Hispanic student organization at Chestnut Hill College, where she served two years as its president.
“I cultivated and sharpened my leadership skills, communication skills, public speaking, event planning, you name it,” Figuereo said of her involvement with the club.
Born and raised in North Philadelphia to parents who immigrated from the Dominican Republic and attending a very small college with a limited Hispanic population, Figuereo set out to make an impact and connect with the Hispanic community through her involvement.
“Not only the Hispanic community, but also people who may not identify with us,” she noted. “We connected with them and made it an inclusive environment so other people can learn and celebrate our culture with us.”
Towards the end of her junior year, Figuereo’s former internship supervisor suggested that she apply for an internship with AL DÍA, given both her ethnic background and career interests.
“He thought I would be a great fit… he really saw the initiative in me,” said Figuereo.
During the summer of 2020, Figuereo interned with AL DÍA. Her internship allowed her to do a bit of everything, including writing articles, creating graphics and producing videos.
Most notably, towards the end of her internship, Figuereo produced a mini-documentary about Vanessa Guillén, the Latina soldier in Fort Hood, Texas, who went missing for months before ultimately being found dead.
Figuereo said the project took over a month to complete, and included two weeks worth of research from about 200 different sources. With the help of her supervisor and colleagues in the AL DÍA newsroom, Figuereo was able to put together the comprehensive, full mini-documentary that has been one of the most viewed videos ever produced by the company.
“I thought it was really important to be able to tell the story because [AL DÍA] gives us this platform to tell these stories that are not being talked about,” she said.
“I wanted to really pull on the heartstrings of my viewers, so they can care about issues like this… Hispanic people are not cared as much about in the media, so I really wanted to push that narrative.”
She noted how the internship experience helped refine the skills she hopes to continue developing and taking with her as she advances in her career.
In addition, it allowed her to fulfill what she described as a “greater purpose bigger than myself.”
“I was doing it to serve communities that are often underrepresented or not spoken about,” she added.
It was her experience at AL DÍA that also led her to her current roles as Marketing and Communications Officer for the local chapters of both LULAC and ALPFA.
“The mission of AL DÍA impacted me so much,” said Figuereo. “There’s no such thing as serving the Hispanic community, or any community too much. They need all the help they can get. So I decided to continue that mission and to give voice and a platform to those underrepresented people.”
Now a 2021 college graduate, Figuereo will be returning to AL DÍA full-time as an AL DIA Félix Varela Fellow.
The fellowship is named in the memory of Félix Varela y Morales, the Cuban-born Catholic priest, professor and innovator who later became one of the leading voices for the independence of Cuba from under Spanish ruling.
His expressive opposition towards Cuba remaining under Spanish rule led the Spanish Crown to condemn him to death, which saw Varela escape Cuba and arrive in New York City in 1823. While in New York, he was assigned to a parish in the Irish section and became a defender of immigrant rights and of the economically disadvantaged Irish immigrants.
The following year, Varela began publishing an independent journal, titled El Habanero, the first Spanish-language newspaper in the U.S.
Funded by the AL DÍA Foundation, the Varela Fellowship is a one-year program for those seeking a career in media, and empowers Latinos to tell their own story and tackle the inequity of Latino voices through extensive education and training opportunities to both witness and also be the storytellers of the mark Latinos are making in society.
Figuereo is passionate about this mission and is eager to get started.
“I want to continue learning,” she said. “My concentration in communications wasn’t in journalism, so this is something new to me and I want to be absorbed in this area of communications… I just want to continue making impactful stories, to continue uplifting the AL DÍA brand and also highlight the Latino experience.”
“I’m very humbled and honored to be an AL DÍA Fellow for the year, and I am excited to accomplish many things, and learn a great deal about journalism and be able to tell the stories that I want to tell [and] that are embedded in AL DÍA’s mission,” Figuereo added.
Figuereo will officially start her fellowship on June 1.