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Celebrating the Class of 2017: Estela Lopez


A snapshot of Estela Lopez on her study abroad trip in the United Kingdom.

Majors: Math, College of Natural Sciences; Economics, College of Liberal Arts

Programs and activities: Gateway Scholars, Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence (LCAE); McNair Scholars, LCAE; Google Community Leaders, Longhorn Center for Community Engagement (LCCE); UT Service Scholars, LCCE and LBJ School of Public Affairs; Project MALES, DDCE

An eye-opening experience…When Estela Lopez embarked on her college career, she didn’t realize she would be one of very few Latinas in her math classes. She later looked into the state of Latinos and Latinas in higher education and founds some concerning statistics. “I became very interested in learning why the educational gap exists in the Latino community. That’s when I began looking into why this is happening and what I could do to make a difference.”

Making an impact…After enrolling in the UT Service Scholars program, Lopez decided to get involved in Project MALES, a research-based program that helps Latino students enter the college pipeline through mentoring and academic enrichment initiatives. While working with her middle school students, she realized she found her calling in community service. “It is so important to have that mentor-mentee companionship. Even if we meet for just one hour, it makes a difference for these middle school students to have someone to talk to, whether it’s about school or what’s happening at home.”

Ready to launch… Looking back at the progress her Mendez Middle School students have made, she’s confident they will transition successfully into high school this fall. “It’s great to see how they’ve changed since we first met. At first they were very quiet and didn’t ask a lot of questions—and now they’re excited about going to high school and meeting their new principal.”

Life after UT Austin…After graduation, Lopez plans to board a one-way flight to Indiana, where she will be pursuing her master’s in public affairs at Indiana University at Bloomington. Though she foresees herself working in the math field later down the road, she wants to spend more time exploring her passion in community service. “After all the service I’ve done within these past few years, I want to keep making an impact in the community.”

Words to live by…When Lopez gave her valedictorian speech at her high school graduation near Lubbock, she broke into Spanish and promised her parents that she would work hard and continue to make them proud by furthering her education and being the first in her family to graduate from college. Moved by her speech, her mother reminds her to this day that she is fulfilling her promise. “It really hit me when my mother reminded me of my speech and assured me that I’m continuing to make them proud every day.”

A lasting legacy…Though she’s excited to graduate and move into the next phase of her academic career, Lopez will miss leading the UT Service Scholars program. Before leaving, she and her co-chair put a lot of effort into recruiting and retaining the next group of scholars. “Both of us are very passionate about UTSS and how it has influenced our lives. So throughout the year, we worked to show the new scholars how much they could gain from the program so they could keep it going. It was a lot of work, but now I’m really happy that we have a great group of scholars in place and that we’re leaving the program in good hands.”

A word of advice…“Don’t be afraid of failure because it’s going to happen during your undergrad years. The rejections will only help you grow. All of those applications, interviews—every single challenge—will improve your development as a professional and as a person. Always challenge yourself because you might not even know your capabilities.”