by KATHY LOY |  photos by Spark Photography

Rancho Penasquitos resident Katarina Stapleford has been helping people her whole life – and she’s only 17. Katarina’s spirit of volunteerism has been nurtured from an early age. “I have been actively volunteering since I was 4 years old,” said Katarina. “My mom used to take me to soup kitchens. I thought it was the normal thing to do.” She was even recognized in a local paper at the time as the youngest “community volunteer” in the area.

Katarina went to Cornerstone Christian School for elementary and middle school, and credits them for developing her love of working with kids. “[The teachers] were so nurturing that I think their ways rubbed off on me,” she said. This helped motivate Katarina to start a program at Del Norte High School, where she is currently in her Junior year, called the Do Something Del Norte: KIN Club, which focuses on helping “kids in need.” The club has become the largest service organization on campus. Katarina is also a founding member of the school newspaper and Associated Student Body, a member of LINK Crew and on the National Honor Society.

Another avocation is cheerleading, a sport Katarina has been doing since she was quite young. “I have been involved in cheer since first grade as a Rancho Bernardo Pop Warner cheerleader. After a couple years, I moved into All-Star competitive cheer and stuck with that until I joined the inaugural Del Norte cheer squad as a freshman, which I continue to do on our Varsity squad,” said Katarina. In her free time, Katarina loves to surf and shop, which she says is her “guilty habit.”

When asked what she wants to do as an adult, Katarina knows she has a lot of options. “I hope to work with children in some capacity…perhaps teaching, social work, or maybe even something in the medical field,” said Katarina. “But I am still researching career fields and am keeping my options open. Anything’s still a possibility!” A good guess is that Katarina will choose a career where she is helping people…with a dose of shopping on the side.