20 for 20: George Lopez

Tell us a little about yourself: where did you go to high school, where did you go to college? What do you do now?

I graduated from Troy High School in 2011 and from Siena College in 2015. I currently work at Siena through the Center for Academic Community Engagement. I set up internships for Siena students with nonprofits across the Capital Region.  

How have your dreams or goals for yourself changed since you were in high school?

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For me at this point, I am focused on building my skills and building meaningful relationships. I believe if I’m in a position where I am not learning or growing, then it’s not for me. When I was in high school, I had no clue what I wanted to do, nor had a vision of who I wanted to be. I happened to be surrounded by strong minded individuals who inspired me to better myself. I try to surround myself with good people and learn from them.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I want to pursue a masters in higher education and potentially a PhD at some point. I want to own a home and build a family. As far as a job, I would like to continue to be in a workplace that is facilitating my growth and fostering my passions. I don’t have a clear picture of what my future looks like right now, but I feel like I’m on the right path.

Do you think your high school self would be surprised or impressed by your current occupation?

I believe so. I’ve learned so much and have built great relationships over the past few years. I think I took advantage of my college experience. Going to college was one of my biggest goals in high school, and now I work at the college where I attended. My path has changed multiple times, but I truly believe I am doing things that I am passionate about.

Do you remember how you felt when you learned you were accepted into Sponsor-A-Scholar?

At the time, I wasn’t too sure what I was getting involved in. As I learned more, I became more invested and more thankful. As a young kid who wanted to accomplish goals, it gave me the tools to succeed.

What was the most important aspect of Sponsor-A-Scholar for you?

One of the best aspects of the program is having a cohort of like-minded peers. Some of my closest friends were also in Sponsor-A-Scholar. It was very inspiring to see them achieve their goals. I felt a sense of camaraderie that pushed me outside of my comfort zone, which helped me grow so much.

Was there one person that helped you reach where you are now?

The admission counselor at Siena who first interviewed me was super helpful. He took me under his wing and taught me so much about college, especially what to look for in a college. I chose Siena because it was such a great atmosphere. He also coached me through my first year. I was the first person in my family to go to college, so to have someone who was relatable and understood what I was going through was critical for me.

How did your mentor help you?

He talked to me like an adult. It may not seem like a big deal, but when I spent time with him and his family, I felt like an adult. High school is a weird time because you may look like an adult, you have an expectation of what an adult is, but people still treat you like a child. It was one of the first times where an adult treated me like an adult, which gave me a different perspective of how I could develop as a person.

What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome to earn your degree?

I got terrible grades my first two years. I contemplated dropping out of college multiple times. I changed my major three times. I had to come to a decision that I had to fully participate in my experience. My goal in high school was to get to college, but I didn’t really have a goal past that. Once I reflected on the things that I really cared about, I began to own my experience.  

How did you overcome that challenge?

I identified that I cared about self-expression and community engagement. Once I started to surround myself with people who could help me fulfill my passion. I began to take creative arts and broadcast courses, and I loved it. I also was involved in community service. I interned at a high school for four years. It helped me develop a sense of responsibility for my community, while developing skills for my passion.   

How did having a mentor change the way you approached other relationships since college?

It helped me seek guidance. Having a mentor helped shape how I think about opportunities, and take advantage of opportunities. It also helped me think about how I spend my time and the people I spend time with.

Did you seek out mentors as you’ve built your career? How have you done this?

Of course!  It may seem contrived or malicious, but I had to figure out what I needed from people. It’s easy to fill your life with random people, but if you intentionally build relationships and learn from people, things will start to line up.

If you could talk with your 18-year-old self about where you are now, what would you tell him?

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You are capable to achieve anything and fear will not help you. You aren’t the only one trying to figure things out.

What does Sponsor-A-Scholar mean to you now?

I appreciate the experience so much. Over the past couple of years, I’ve realized that I have been so lucky to have the support from Sponsor-A-Scholar. I’ve never thought that people were smarter than me, it’s just a question of resources. I try not to take my blessings for granted, and I pay it forward whenever I can.

If you could say one thing to your Sponsor, what would it be?

Thank you for everything, and I am going to give back. I've just started mentoring a student in Troy, and I'm excited to contribute in other ways too.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Make mistakes, recover, and find happiness where you can.

Thank you so much, George!