Student Spotlight - Laura Lopez aims to open doors through teaching

Instructor and students studying on the same table in the library

Student Spotlight

Posted 3-11-15

Laura Lopez – Class of ‘15
Major: Liberal Arts/Mathematics

Phi Theta Kappa
Chi Alpha Epsilon
Honors Program

Future Teacher Wants to Help Open Doors for Other Paterson Students 

"Being in the Honors Program has definitely prepared me for a four-year college,” says Laura Lopez. "The classes are harder and writing papers is much more intensive.”

The honor student appreciates the academic challenge and the additional enrichment opportunities of the Honors Program. "I really enjoy the guest speakers,” said Laura.
"And I like the socializing, when honors students get together to share ideas and discuss our class projects.”

But there is one advantage to the program Laura especially values. "Professors are more aware of you,” she says.  "They know you're in that class because you want to be.”

A math major who will graduate this May, Laura is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. "It's definitely an honor to know you are among the top students in the college,” she said.

Laura's current academic success could not be predicted from her early school performance. "I was not a good student in elementary school,” she says. "I got Cs and Ds, and I was terrible at math.”

The Paterson resident came to the U.S. from Colombia when she was eight years old and  spoke no English.  "It took me until eighth grade to really get comfortable with the language,” said Laura.

She credits her eighth grade teacher for that accomplishment. "My teacher encouraged me to do English-only classes,” said Laura.  "She would always tell me, ‘You can do it.'”

It was around that time that Laura started doing very well in all her classes, especially math. A devout Christian, she believes her faith was the reason.  "The Bible says good things come to those who love God,” explained Laura.  "I was growing in the faith and saw the results.”

As a high school student at Passaic County Technical Institute, Laura received grades of As and Bs, and qualified to became a dual enrollment student, attending college-level classes and earning college credits while still in high school.  


Laura entered PCCC as a full-time student in 2012 and found the small class size and supportive environment compatible. "I'm quiet and introverted,” she explained. 
"I don't think I would have done some of the things I did at PCCC, like the honors classes, if I had attended a larger, four-year college first.”

A member of Chi Alpha Epsilon the honor society of the Educational Opportunity Fund(EOF), which provides financial support towards her education, Laura says "Not only has EOF helped me financially, but it has given me great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.”

Laura credits her role as president of AESNJ (Alliance of EOF Students of New Jersey) with teaching her how to plan and conduct events and with giving her, "the push I need to speak out and stand out, having to speak in front of the entire EOF Program.

A Sunday school teacher at her church and a math tutor at PCCC Laura realized her career goal is to educate others. "I know teaching is definitely what I want to do,” she said.  "Sometimes, I feel tired at the end of a long day, but when I start tutoring at 7 p.m. it wakes me right up,” she said. "I feel energized.” 

Planning to pursue a career as an elementary school math teacher, Laura hopes to teach in Paterson one day.  "I think that can open doors for other Paterson students,” she said.

For now, she is looking to pursue her bachelor's degree and prepare for a teaching career at Kean University. "I'm a little nervous about going on to a large university and meeting new people" Laura admits, "but I'm also looking forward to it.” 

But before then, she's anticipating May 21 when she wears her cap and gown as well as the symbols of the honors she has achieved.  "Chi Alpha Epsilon has taught me that hard work pays off, and that is not bad to strive for success,” said Laura. "I look forward to graduation day and wearing all the graduation cords and stoles, knowing that I worked hard to earn them.”