We Are UNCW Telling our story, one Seahawk at a time.

Sonia Lopez ’17

October 28, 2016

From a young age, Sonia Lopez ’17 watched her mother struggle with cancer. Like many bilingual children of non-English speaking immigrants, she often had to step in on her mother’s behalf to be a translator for both her mother and her mother’s doctors. Lopez cites these experiences as catalysts for wanting to study nursing at UNCW in order to improve the level of care and communication afforded to non-English speaking patients and their families.

“I was just fifteen. I had no idea what cancer would do to you,” Lopez said. “I definitely want to be more involved in my community, especially with health care. In the Spanish-speaking community, it’s difficult. And I have been in those experiences myself because of my mother.”

Nursing is not all Lopez is doing during her time at UNCW. She recently won the Excellence in Engagement Award from the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement. The award is presented to a small group of students who have made a significant impact toward improving the quality of life for the UNCW student body through leadership and service. Lopez has displayed these qualities through her work with Centro Hispano, UNCW’s center for Hispanic and Latino students, and their youth mentoring program MI CASA.

Lopez herself came through MI CASA when she was in high school, and she believes the mentoring program mapped out a better college experience for her. Instead of being anxious, friendless and lost on her first day of college, Lopez felt assured and familiar with her surroundings. She had friends among the student body and a place to go when she felt alone.

“I knew people, like the mentors,” she said. “I felt like I had a lot of friends. I already knew Dr. Edelmira Segovia (Centro Hispano director) well. I feel like knowing people helped because they showed me resources and pointed me in the direction of where to go if I needed help.”

In order to give back to Centro Hispano and to reach other Hispanic high school students, Lopez became a MI CASA mentor herself. She has been excited to bring her own perspective and knowledge to her mentee, sharing valuable information about UNCW, specifically the experience of living in residence halls on campus. Lopez wants to recreate her own success at UNCW for future students, showing the benefits she enjoys most: the small classes, the environment and tight-knit community and the amount of resources available to students.

“I’ve had a really great college experience at UNCW,” said Lopez. “The community has been great, and I strongly feel that Centro has a big part to play in that. The Hispanic culture is very family-oriented, and Centro feels like a family. That’s what made UNCW feel like home.”

-- Caitlin Taylor '18M