UC Davis student Marcelo Lopez
“I want all students to find success, so I’m taking on every challenge or opportunity that I can.” Courtesy photo

Aggie Hero: Marcelo Lopez

Marcelo Lopez hopes the tremendous challenges he’s overcome can inspire others to reach their own educational goals.

Lopez was raised by a single mother in a low-income household and attended 11 different middle schools. His mother passed away when he was 16, leaving him and four siblings behind. Lopez entered the foster care system and says he barely graduated from high school.

Now, Lopez is 40 years old, a double major in sociology and Chicano Studies who plans to attend law school. Since transferring to UC Davis three years ago from community college in San Jose, Lopez has also worked diligently to support fellow students with untraditional and challenged backgrounds.

He’s the former president of Older, Wiser Learners (OWLs), a UC Davis club for nontraditional students, including those who are ages 25 and up, caretakers and reentry students. Part of his focus is advocating for campus resources that go toward student-parents.

Lopez credits OWLs for helping him connect with the community and find support when he arrived on campus.

“When I found the organization, it was pretty much a social club and that’s important,” Lopez said. “Then I got into advocacy. There’s a large number of student parents who need to find community and a voice.”

Lopez serves as a peer advisor for UC Davis’ Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and helped lead efforts for Foster Care Awareness Month on campus. He also volunteers with Beyond the Stats, a group of formerly incarcerated and “system-impacted” students who are enrolled at UC Davis.

Ultimately, Lopez is driven to motivate students and show that success is possible, no matter what background a person comes from or what challenges they’ve faced.

“I realized that all my experiences, both good and bad, lend themselves to helping myself and others,” Lopez said. “I want all students to find success, so I’m taking on every challenge or opportunity that I can.”