Every Student Succeeding: From Help to Hope

Maria Lopez loves to smile. But you can also make the argument that her smile is a defense mechanism. It is a way to hide the pain.

“I guarantee you they have no clue what I’ve been through,” Maria said. “And it’s hard for me to sometimes hide it. There were some points when I was really sad and just depressed. I had my moments where I would cry for no reason. But it was because I would think about the things that happened to me.”

Maria dealt with abuse and neglect throughout her childhood. In some ways, she says she had to raise herself.

“There were points where I was like, ‘You know what?’” Maria said. “’I need the love and affection of a mother which I have not had my whole life.’ When I was young, it was all about courts. It was all about visits. It was all about this and that. And it’s like I never had the love of my parents. I never got their support.”

Maria was placed in the foster care system after an altercation between her mother and stepfather in which police were called to the family’s home. But foster care only made things more difficult. Maria says there were times where she considered ending her life.

“I had to realize that it wasn’t the end of the world,” Maria said. “There were times where I would have some tough moments. Why throw everything away when you have so much? When there’s more for people to give you. When there’s more to receive. I can’t just throw everything away.”

But Maria still needed help. Thankfully, she found it at Antelope High with counselors Erica Joseph and Brian Hewitt.

“I have a high belief in people’s internal fortitude,” Hewitt said. “I think we can accomplish things. I think we can. Even folks who have been through really traumatic situations. I believe in all my students, but I will tell you that this young lady has persevered as much as, if not more than, any of them. And that’s probably why this story is happening.”

Maria says she does not know where she be without their constant support.

“They were just always there for me,” Maria said. “And the love that I have for them and the trust that I have with them is because they earned it. And all of their love and support that they’ve given to me.”

Despite her trials and tribulations, Maria persevered and graduated from Antelope High in May. Her dream is to join the Air Force. But for now, she wants to share her story with others.

“I can’t really complain about it because if the things that happened to me in my past. If that would not have happened, I wouldn’t be here,” Maria said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am right now. I’m very happy with who I am. I love myself for who I am. I’ve been through so much, but I’m standing up.”

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