May 22, 2018
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Katherin Lopez left her home in Newburgh, N.Y. and moved into the Mount’s Sakac Hall on August 24, 2014. On Saturday, May 19, she earned a bachelor’s degree at the Mount’s 55th annual Commencement.
Nearly four years ago, then-freshman Katherin Lopez made the small trip from her home in Newburgh, N.Y. to Mount Saint Mary College, ready to move into Sakac Hall and take the next big step in her academic career.
Now, having just received a bachelor of arts in Psychology at the Mount’s 55th annual Commencement on Saturday, May 19, Lopez stands at the precipice of another big step: the much longer journey to England, her new home.
Lopez, who was part of the college’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), is the first person in her family to earn a college degree.
Her goals for her first semester were simple and admirable: “I’m planning on doing a great job in all my classes,” she explained on Move-In Day on August 24, 2014. The college’s faculty, she added, “are really helpful, really supportive, and are there to make sure you succeed.”
And succeed she did. During her time as a Mount student, Lopez was a member of both the Latin Student Union and Knights Fashion Club. In addition to being a Resident Peer Councilor for HEOP, she also received a scholarship from the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation for maintaining a grade point average of 3.0 or above. She participated in two internships, including one at Orange Lake Physical Therapy in Newburgh, N.Y.
She also fell in love.
In between her studies, Lopez worked at a shoe store to support her college career. There, she got to know Ruben Collazo, who was already a friend of her brother. She and Collazo hit it off and, a few years later, they were married.
When Collazo, now an airman first class with the U.S. Airforce, was stationed in England, Lopez followed, finishing her last semester at the Mount via online courses. She briefly returned for Commencement and is scheduled to head back overseas at the end of May 2018. She and Collazo will remain there for at least the next two years.
Lopez has already applied to several graduate programs in England and hopes to begin working on a master’s degree in Psychology as soon as possible.
Having briefly returned for Commencement, Mount graduate Katherin Lopez will return to her new home in England in June 2018.
But she wouldn’t have made it this far without the Mount, she noted. Lopez credits the HEOP program with giving her a much better chance to succeed. She had already been accepted into the Mount when she applied to HEOP, but the program’s extra support allowed her to live on campus and provided her with enhanced academic guidance.
“It really helped build myself up as more professional,” she said. “It was a lot easier for me to maintain focus living here, as opposed to living home and having other distractions.”
Staying on campus made Lopez more independent, she added, and the small class sizes allowed her to get to know her professors very well.
“The teachers and my classmates were like a little family,” she explained.
Guiding her throughout her four years at the Mount was Patrick Duffy, associate director of the college’s Office of Student Success. From everyday academic questions to the big decision to finish her Mount courses online from England, Duffy was always ready to help, noted Lopez.
“Pat has been there for me since the beginning,” she explained. “I see him as a very consistent figure in my college career…he has inspired growth in me and helped me with personal issues.”
For students fresh out of high school who are wondering what to do next, Lopez suggests having a plan and heading to college, but being flexible about opportunities one might not have seen coming.
“You don’t need to have the next 20 years mapped out when you’re 18,” said Lopez. With a college education, “Opportunities come for you. You just have to be mindful of what’s the best for you and your goals.”
For example, “If you asked me four years ago if I’d be living in England having this cool life, I couldn’t have imaged it,” she said. “Now I can’t imagine things any other way.”