SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Sandra López, a Wofford sophomore, believes college students should be engaged and involved members of the community, and she’s willing to back up her beliefs with time, talent and energy.
Her efforts to build a stronger, healthier community have drawn the attention of Campus Compact, and the organization named López a Newman Civic Fellow this spring for her public leadership and community involvement.
“I am a strong believer that the engagement of college students in their communities builds better leaders and successful adults,” she says. “I would like to change the way in which community leaders address income inequality and social equity.”
López is currently working as a member of a research team led by Dr. Laura Barbas Rhoden, professor of Spanish, and Dr. Christine Dinkins, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Philosophy, to promote community-building, health and inclusion in the Spartanburg area, in particular with the area’s growing Latinx population.
The finance major from Enoree, S.C., is also a Bonner Scholar, which means she gains scholarship assistance for service in the community. López mentors high school students through the iCAN program of the Citizen Scholars Institute of The Spartanburg County Foundation. She also tutors second graders in the Arcadia community and works with Access Health, a program that connects low-income uninsured individuals to health care and other services for assistance.
“Through these interactions, I have been able to reach out and help the children and struggling families of Spartanburg,” says López. “The community-based research that I am a part of has also played a pivotal role in further connecting local business and the community members of Arcadia.”
López is a first-generation college student and the daughter of immigrants. Growing up, she was able to observe how the world treated immigrants as a group and recognized that something had to change for their contributions to be valued.
“The adversity that I have faced has empowered me to fight for not only social change but also social awareness of the marginalized Latinos and the problems they face daily,” López says. “Knowing that I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to continue my education motivates me to be successful for the ones who could not.”
In addition, she participates in on-campus discussions and organizations as an advocate for the rights and well-being of immigrants.
“Sandra knows removing barriers for immigrants to fully participate in American life and bridging the educational attainment gap are two keys to addressing income inequality, developing social equity, restoring a sense of community and mutual caring and building full participation in our communities, economy and democracy,” says Wofford President Nayef Samhat, who nominated López for the fellowship.
She plans to use the opportunity to boost representation of Latino communities within South Carolina’s educational system.
“Throughout South Carolina, the presence of Latinos has significantly grown, especially in the Upstate, but the problem is that representation has not shown that increase,” she says. “This fellowship motivates me as a future public leader to bring more awareness about our Latino communities throughout the state, and I will strive to create awareness for better education through my current and future work.”
Campus Compact’s goal is to build a national network of engaged student leaders who can support one another in building transformational partnerships between campuses and communities. The Newman Fellowships recognize and support community-committed students who are changemakers and public problem-solvers.
Frank Newman dedicated his life to public service and advocated for opportunities for diverse and economically challenged students to have access to a college education. His platform consisted of promoting educational opportunity and strengthening education and encouraging students to be active citizens.
López echoes Newman’s philosophy as she focuses on bringing together the different communities within Spartanburg to create a stronger sense of community for everyone.