By Laura Nelson
It was a long way from Puerto Rico to Uvalde for sisters Lizandra Figueroa Silva and Nathalia Figueroa-Silva, but once they arrived, they never left.
When Lizandra was six and Nathalia five, they traveled with mom Liza Silva to visit their dad, Manuel Figueroa Pagán, who was working at the Texas A&M Agri-Life Research Center as a research assistant. The family liked Uvalde so much they stayed and made it their home.
The sisters settled into their new lives and attended school in Knippa. In the 8th grade, they took the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, the exam that determines a student’s readiness for college-level work in basic subjects, and were placed in dual credit courses. Lizandra was in the first class that offered dual credit at Knippa High School. When both graduated from high school, they did so with high school diplomas and associate degrees from Southwest Texas Junior College.
With a desire to help people, Lizandra planned to go into law enforcement and become a police officer. After graduating high school at 17, she considered her options for additional higher education in Texas or perhaps joining the Air Force, but in the end decided that she was not ready to leave the security of her family. She chose Sul Ross State Univ. since she could continue living at home, commenting that Sul Ross is very student-oriented. She graduated with honors from SRSU with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology at the age of 19. “I feel very accomplished and a little over-educated,” Lizandra said, and added that she thanks her parents for pushing her. She intends to apply to the Texas Department of Public Safety to train as a state trooper, but must wait until she is 21. She is currently working as an administrative assistant in the District Attorney’s office in Uvalde and her ultimate goals include earning a Juris Doctor degree and eventually joining the FBI’s Crimes Against Children unit.
Nathalia has planned to be an attorney since she was young. Some of her family wanted her to pursue a career in medicine, and after high school she applied for admission to a radiology technician program. That was put on hold when she was placed on a waiting list. Lizandra encouraged her sister to continue on her path for a law degree and suggested she apply for admission to Sul Ross. After Nathalia was accepted, the radiology program offered her a spot, but she turned it down and will graduate from Sul Ross with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a minor Psychology in the fall of 2021. She hopes to attend St. Mary’s Univ. for law school, but will first work for a while to earn money. She has yet to decide between medical malpractice or criminal defense, but her primary goal remains helping others. The younger sister appreciates Lizandra believing in her and encouraging her to pursue her dream of becoming an attorney.
No matter the paths Lizandra and Nathalia pursue, they take with them the strong educational foundation they received right at home.