From HSE Graduate to First-generation College Student to ASU Dean’s List: Meet Ayla Lopez
Seven years ago, Ayla Lopez decided to pursue coursework to earn her high school equivalency (HSE) diploma. The first program she chose wasn’t working out, so in searching for another, Lopez came upon Rio Salado College.
“I had taken a GED course elsewhere and didn’t feel I was learning or advancing in the program,” Lopez said. “At Rio Salado, I felt welcomed and cared for since I first started. Everyone believed in me which made me believe in myself.”
The child of Mexican immigrants, Lopez’s childhood was filled with struggles.
“At times, we lived in poverty,” Lopez said. “My mother would have 2 or 3 jobs in order to afford our family’s minimal needs. While she worked, I took care of the household and my siblings.”
Lopez’s motivation for going back to school was to be a role model for her own children.
“I am a first-generation student so I needed to teach my children that if I could succeed, so could they,” Lopez said. “I want to be an example they follow so that they too can become strong, successful individuals.”
She enrolled in Rio Salado’s GED® test preparation program and credits the support she received from instructors and staff for helping her succeed.
“Not only did I have extremely supportive instructors, but Rio Salado also provides you with every tool needed to succeed,” Lopez said. “They will keep trying with you until you accomplish your academic goals.”
Because of Lopez’s determination and penchant for learning, her HSE instructors encouraged her to apply for Rio’s Adults Achieving a College Education (Adult ACE) scholarship.
“I joined ACE because I was encouraged by staff and instructors from the GED course,” Lopez said. “It was the best decision I’ve made. They taught me that if I believed in myself, I could do anything. That’s a wonderful gift and I will never forget everyone who guided me.”
Lopez used her Rio Salado College experience as a springboard to further her education. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.
“I am proud to say that I made the Dean’s List almost every semester, and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.81 GPA,” Lopez said.
Today, Lopez works as a paralegal for a local law firm. She is studying for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), with a goal of graduating from a top law school and becoming an attorney.
On her way to realizing her career goals, Lopez encourages adult students considering their education options to start at Rio Salado.
“I recommend Rio Salado because they believe that everyone can succeed,” Lopez said. “Do not be afraid to have dreams that seem impossible. You’ll never feel alone while at Rio. They become part of your family.”
For Lopez, family and education go hand in hand.
“I am glad to say that I have also inspired many other women in my family to complete their education,” Lopez said. “Education is a gift that can never be taken, lost, or returned, and therefore is one of the most valued gifts you could ever receive.”
Check out all the programs available for adult learners at Rio Salado College.
By Mira Radovich, PR & Marketing Analyst