One of the many Aggie Rings presented Nov. 17 will belong to Karen Lopez, a mother of six children and full time student.
Through different events that have occurred in her life, Lopez said she realized she needed something to work toward again. For her, that was an education.
“As a first-generation American and first-generation student, I knew I needed to hold on to something, something to make me feel alive again,” Lopez said. “I Googled colleges in Texas and saw Texas A&M and I knew this is where I belonged.”
Even though Texas A&M was Lopez’s dream school, her first application was denied. Despite the setback, Lopez knew A&M was where she wanted to be and was persistent to get here.
“The first time I applied I got rejected, and it broke my heart because I knew this was where I belonged,” Lopez said. “I came to Aggieland four different times with my kids and spoke with the [College of Liberal Arts] multiple times to let them know I belonged here.”
After intensive research and advice from the College of Liberal Arts, Lopez was accepted into A&M on her second application in the fall of 2015 and is majoring in women’s and gender studies.
During her first semester at A&M, Lopez was eight months pregnant. In hopes of proving herself, Lopez took on fifteen hours of coursework.
Although things became difficult for Lopez, she said her support system made attending school, home schooling her children and being a member of Memorial Student Center Student Conference on Latinx Affairs and Kappa Delta Chi on campus possible.
“Everyone was very supportive,” Lopez said. “I have never experienced that in my life. Even after I had my baby in the middle of the semester in October during midterms, everyone was very supportive and my women’s and gender studies professor, Claire Katz, allowed me to bring my baby to class every day.”
Student services on campus were also very helpful through her pregnancy midway through the semester, Lopez said.
According to Angela Winkler, Student Assistance Services employee, Lopez visited often to seek help in navigating through the academic challenges she faced while missing classes during her pregnancy.
“The biggest thing we did to help was listen,” Winkler said. “We had gotten to know Karen and she felt comfortable coming to us and talking with us. Sometimes we helped brainstorm some ideas to reduce the stress, and sometimes we just listened.”
Although students and employees at A&M supported Lopez, she said her biggest support came from her children.
“They have seen the times where I’m broken and crying, when I’m stressed or frustrated with certain things happening at school or in the department,” Lopez said. “They see me in my good times, at the football games and Midnight Yell. They have experienced everything with me.”
Lopez’s children will also be a part of her ring ceremony, going through another special moment with their mom. During the ceremony, each of her children are going to have a string attached to her Aggie Ring, all sliding it simultaneously onto her finger.
“The fact that Karen will be surrounded by her amazing kids and so many people who love and support her is by far the best part of her receiving her Aggie Ring on Friday,” Julia Jakab, academic advisor, said. “The ultimate symbol of Aggie unity will be held by Karen for the rest of her life and impact more people then she will ever know.”
According to Karen’s sixteen year-old son Joseph, the family is extremely excited and proud of all their mom has accomplished as an Aggie.
“When my mom receives her Aggie Ring, the family and I are going to feel so proud of what she has accomplished,” Joseph said. “My mom has worked hard to get where she is and she deserves it.”
Yadiel, Karen’s 10 year-old son, said he is excited for his mom to get her Aggie Ring.
“When I do see [her ring], I’m going to be so happy seeing Mommy’s dream come true,” Yadiel said. “It’s going to feel like opening presents on Christmas day.”
Pulling from her life experiences, Lopez wants to use herself as an example and help others who are facing similar problems by traveling and telling untold stories of women.
“Why experience all of these things that I’ve gone through and not share that to help others,” Lopez said. “If I keep it to myself, there was no point in going through everything I’ve gone through.”
Lopez’s hard work throughout the years has not gone unnoticed. According to Yuliana Galarza, English sophomore and Lopez’s sorority sister, Lopez has made a large impact on her life.
“Seeing Karen get her Aggie Ring is something very special, not only for her and her family, but also for many others, including myself,” Galarza said. “I am so proud that she is setting such a good example for her children as well as [the] members of the community who want to follow their own dreams and might feel like the road is a difficult one. Karen is living proof that difficulty roads lead to beautiful destinations.”
Lopez said she has a single piece of advice through her own personal journey.
“There’s always going to be people who are ready to tell you that you can’t do it,” Lopez said. “There’s always going to be those nay sayers, but you need to believe in yourself regardless of what comes your way. Have a faith in yourself and know that you are capable of doing what might seem impossible to others.”