Roosevelt University alumna Lucy Lopez believes in miracles.
She first knew the unthinkable could be possible as a toddler when her father credited her for giving him strength and inspiration to overcome, even while the doctors predicted a spinal tumor would keep him in a wheelchair for life.
When she graduated in 2014, the 22-year-old mother of her own toddler still believed in miracles, for not only was she the first in her family to graduate from Roosevelt, but her father was there - standing tall and even jumping for joy – as she received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
“My parents sacrificed with hard work to provide me with the best. All the strength that I have comes from seeing my mom remain fiercely by my dad’s side, fighting against an illness that changed our lives,” said Lopez, the eldest daughter of Mexican immigrants who grew up in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, always with her parents’ encouragement to get her college education. “The only way I can top what they did for me is to make them proud by getting my college degree.”
The recipient of a full-ride, four-year scholarship at Roosevelt, Lopez chose to major in psychology in order to better understand mental conditions like depression, which her father suffered from during years he couldn’t walk.
“My mom kept telling him, ‘You need to get out of this mindset’ and then one day he began to take baby steps, first with a walker, next with a cane, and then on his own. It’s been truly a miracle to witness,” Lopez said.
Minoring in Criminal Justice and Child and Family Studies, the psychology major had a taste of the kind of work she’d like to do in the future as a Roosevelt intern working with troubled kids in the Cook County Juvenile Justice system.
Growing up herself amid gangs and guns, Lopez learned as a teen what it’s like to lose a friend when a 15-year-old boy who was like a brother to her was killed in a drive-by shooting, his parents left to mourn the death of their only son.
Since that tragedy, she has regularly returned several times a year to visit. Moved by their grief and determination to go on, she has also vowed as a Roosevelt student to give back in any way she can.
“The reason I want to work with kids in the city is that I’ve seen a lot of things there that didn’t get addressed,” said Lopez, who cites behavioral issues and lack of family support as among challenges that urban youth face on their own.
“I want to give back and help meet the needs of some of these kids,” said Lopez, who received support at Roosevelt through its First-Generation Support Services, which works one-on-one with first generation college students.
The office also provided assistance and advice as Lopez maps out her next steps upon graduation, including helping her fill out applications for graduate school in Psychology.
“It’s been hard for me to get though school but my parents put it in my head since I was young that I could get an education,” she said.
Lopez is now on a path with education and support from Roosevelt University to go places she never thought possible, with her idealism firmly rooted to witness the next miracle that she is confident will come.
“I want to provide my son with a better life than I had and I know that education is the way to do that,” she said.