VHS graduate receives the N.M. School Board Association scholarship


People in small towns often talk about young people moving away from the community to find jobs, but Raquel Lopez, a Valencia High School graduate, is determined to be a doctor right here in her own community.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia High School graduate Raquel Lopez was awarded the New Mexico School Board Association scholarship. She was the recipient of several other scholarships as well, and plans to become a doctor to serve her community.

Lopez was recently awarded the New Mexico School Board Association scholarship, and plans to start her college career at the University of New Mexico-Valencia Campus.

She was chosen for the $1,000 scholarship out of a 100 applicants across the state, and is one of 25 winners.

“I was really excited when I got it,” Lopez said. “I had to apply to be nominated for it, and once I was nominated I was put into the selected 100 (to compete).”

NMSBA President Dion Sandoval said Lopez’s application was the most outstanding application.

“I think that’s quite an honor for us,” said Bernard Saiz, superintendent of Los Lunas Schools. “They were very impressed with Raquel’s application.”

Part of the process involved writing an essay, and Lopez’s essay stood out, Saiz said.

She wrote about her life goals. Her greatest ambition is to give back to her community through the medical field.

She decided at an early age to pursue medicine as a career to help her community. The inspiration came through an experience that deeply affected her — the loss of her baby brother, Daniel.

“The nurses were very helpful to my family, so that’s how I thought I could give back,” Lopez said. “They were so helpful, especially for my mom and dad.”

Lopez is also a recipient of scholarships from Comcast’s Leaders and Achievers, Valencia County Hispano Chamber of Commerce, Pepita Griego Memorial scholarship, Knights of Columbus, Federal Credit Union and the New Mexico Lottery scholarships.

She’ll start her general science associates degree at UNM-VC, and then go on to get her pre-med chemistry or biology bachelor’s degree before start medical school, she said.

“Now that I’m looking into it more, I’m looking more toward surgery or the emergency room,” she said. “I’ve been doing more research about that, and it seems more interesting, like something I would want to do.”

In high school, Lopez was always into science and was good at it, she said.

“My teacher, Mr.(John) Kern has really helped me shape my interest in biology,” Lopez said. “He really helped me get a head start on what I’m going to do.

“The way he runs his class is more like college level. He used to be a biologist, then he went into teaching,” she said. “His experience and his passion for it was neat to see, to have a teacher who was passionate about what he did. His classes are always filled — everybody always wants to be in his class.”

She also took an advanced placement biology class, and dual enrollment classes to earn college credits in chemistry.

Lopez was involved in Future Farmers of America, and that also drew her into biology and animal science.

She even took welding classes as well as agriculture classes, and enjoys knowing she can help her father weld on their farm, she said.

Lopez is the eldest in a family of six siblings — seven, including Daniel — with her mother and father, Olivia and Henry Lopez. They live on a small farm with cows and chickens in Tomé, and have always lived in a rural community.

She said growing up in a big family really helped her learn how to make good choices for herself.

Being the eldest, Lopez learned leadership skills early on, and had to be a good role model for her younger sisters and brothers.

When her parents built their home in Tomé, she helped by acting as gopher. When her mother needs help, she takes care of her 4-month-old brother, Isaac.

“Just seeing the responsibility of taking care of a child is a real eye-opener — not something I want to do at 18,” Lopez said. “Being the oldest, I have always had responsibilities to maintain.”

What she learned at home fueled her academic participation.

She was vice president of the Renaissance program in her senior year, acting as the school representative and attending school board meetings to be a spokesperson for her school.

Along with the Renaissance program and FFA, she was also in the National Honor Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“We incorporate our sport and God and faith into what we do,” Lopez said. “What it really comes down to is playing for our team, we’re not playing for selfish purposes, we’re playing for Christ.”

In her church, San Clemente Catholic Church in Los Lunas, she is involved in Life Teen, and is a member of the Bible club. She is also a catechism teacher’s aide.

Lopez was the captain of the Lady Jaguar softball team for four years. Softball is her favorite sports and one for which she had to persevere to get on the team. It took several tryouts before she was finally picked for the high school team her freshman year.

Last spring, Lopez and her friend, Molly Holiday, were the only Valencia County softball players picked to play in the North-South All-Star games.

“The North and South teams are the best of the best in (classes) 4A/5A schools,” she said. “We played for South and won.”

She also ran cross-country for three years and learned a lot of discipline.

Cross-country coach Lynette Padilla was one of the toughest coaches Lopez ever had, she said.

“It taught me a lot, and I’m glad she was tough on us,” Lopez said. “It taught me: Don’t sell yourself short, you don’t know what’s going to happen, because with a little bit of effort, it’s going to matter, even with school or with life.”

She attributes her drive to her father, and said her mother has taught her patience and grace through her beautiful personality.

“I’m more like my dad. I’m a daddy’s girl,” Lopez said with a smile. “The way he leads the family, the way he takes care of us, and his wise words. He’s very wise.”

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.