Beating the Odds and Giving Back

For Elizabeth Lopez ’19, being a community leader and a scholar is nothing new.

As a high school student in Culver City, she tutored and mentored girls at a nearby community center, taught mandolin, and was involved in her church, all while getting some of the best grades in her high school class. Her parents faced significant financial and health challenges, but she found time to stay active in her community and on top of her schoolwork while also helping her family however she could.

This impressive combination of determination, leadership and compassion earned Lopez the Children’s Defense Fund’s prestigious Beat the Odds Scholarship, which honors high school students who overcome adversity, demonstrate academic excellence, and give back to their communities.

Now, Lopez is on her way to being the first in her family to graduate college as a sophomore at LMU. Passionate about Latina/o life on campus, she volunteers as a host for LMU’s Latina/o Overnight, a program that introduces prospective Latina/o students to life here.

As a liberal studies (elementary education) major, Lopez is planning to become a teacher in her community, with a goal of encouraging students to live up to their potential and set their sights on college, just like she did.

“A lot of kids in my community growing up, they get discouraged,” she said. “They see careers like gardening or housekeeping or labor jobs as their only option. Having someone who believes in you, that’s what people who grew up in communities like myself need. They need that push.”

She knows from her own experience that mentors and teachers can go a long way to support youth whose families are unfamiliar with higher education. “A lot of our parents don’t know how the system works,” she said. “They don’t know how to help their kids even though they want to.”

Even though her parents did not attend college themselves, Lopez knows she owes her success to them. “I don’t want to take anything my parents have done for granted,” she said. “I just want to make them proud. Everything I do, this is everything they’ve worked for.”