Angela Lopez Luis dreams of opening her own private practice.
She says she wants to work with children and families, especially those in the Latinx community.
“I want to speak up for them,” says Lopez Luis, a first-year student in the Boston College School of Social Work. “I want to fight with them. I want them to believe that they can do the impossible.”
Her career plans might look different if she’d let disappointment get in her way.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Salem State University in June and then applied to the master’s program there, but she didn’t get accepted. She almost gave up, she says, but her friend persuaded her to apply to BC.
Now she’s two weeks from finishing her first semester at one of the best social work schools in the United States. “I remember the day that I got accepted,” she says. “I remember crying and thinking ‘they chose me.’”
Lopez Luis was recently chosen for something else, too, receiving a $1,000 scholarship from the Association of Latina/Latino Social Work Educators, which helps Latinx students and faculty reach their potential. About 150 students applied for the scholarship and she was one of seven who got it.
“I’ve doubted myself a lot,” says Lopez Luis. “Winning this scholarship pushed me to believe in myself a little bit more.”
Rocío Calvo, an associate professor in the school and president of the association, describes Lopez Luis as an “outstanding student with a nuanced understanding of diverse Latinx communities.”
“Her future clients,” she says, “will be lucky to have her.”
Lopez Luis has worked with children and families since she was 14 years old. She attended Lynn Vocational and Technical High School in Massachusetts, where she focused on early childhood education, and turned an internship at a daycare for infants and toddlers into a job for three years.
“I’ve naturally gravitated toward working with kids,” says Lopez Luis, who now studies in the Children, Youth, and Families field of practice at BCSSW. “I want to be the voice for them because they need to be heard.”
She empathized with the kids, she says. She understood them. And she knew she wanted to study social work after high school.
“It’s cliche,” says Lopez Luis, “but I want to help.”
When she received her degree from Salem State University, she became the first member of her family to graduate from college.
“I never thought that I would be where I am today,” she says. “I never thought that I would come this far.”
Lopez Luis works two jobs to help her sharpen her skills. During the day, she interns at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, where she helps clients find therapists. At night, she counsels patients at Beth Israel Lahey Health Behavioral Services.
Many of her clients identify as Latinx. “I’ve built really great relationships with families that I have helped,” she says. “It’s really important to get to know the communities that you're working in.”
Lopez Luis is also learning about herself. She says her “Rethinking Diversity” course has taught her how to recognize her biases and develop more self-awareness.
“It’s helped me become a better social worker,” she says. “It will help me better assist my clients now and in the future.”