Alejandro Lopez (far right) at the 2018 March for Our Lives; photo by WHYY
First-year Politics, Government and Law major Alejandro Lopez ‘24 has been following his passion for politics and activism long before he started at Arcadia University.
In March 2018, Lopez was a speaker at March for Our Lives in Philadelphia, sharing the stage with Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr., Philadelphia City Council members, and other active political speakers. As a high school student, Lopez’s activism caught the attention of parents involved with March for Our Lives and they asked him to get involved, but he never imagined he’d be speaking in front of thousands of student protesters and supporters.
“I was standing up on that stage and reading my speech, shaking because I’m so cold and I’m so nervous,” said Lopez, who is also a Civic Scholar at Arcadia. “But there was this satisfaction that I was doing the work that people always talk about.”
Lopez said that while the whole thing is a blur from adrenaline and nervousness, his speech addressed the intersectionalities of his identity—how he doesn’t feel safe as a student, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or as a Latino. Not only was he addressing the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but the shootings at Pulse Night Club in June 2016 as well, which is a gay club in Orlando, Florida.
“It’s traumatizing to sit through active shooter drills and assemblies,” said Lopez. “We can’t be safe when we go to school. We can’t be safe when we are having fun with people who we identify with, as an LGBTQ+ person, and I can’t be safe because of my ethnicity.”
Lopez said the beginning of his passion for politics came from his family. His grandfather, who is a Cuban refugee, and his father, a first generation American, used to argue politics when he was a child at holidays and dinners.
His first personal political experience was in middle school. Lopez recounted how in seventh grade he had to do a project on climate change in a combined history and science program.
“My history teacher taught us all about the politics and the history side of climate change and the need for climate change legislation,” said Lopez. “Then, my science teacher would teach us the science on it.”
At the end of the project, his class visited Washington D.C. and met with some of the congressmen and senators for their districts.
“We had a chance to sit down as 12-year-olds and talk about climate change,” said Lopez. “It didn’t make that big of a difference, but I was still exercising my voice. It was really what inspired me and set me on this track.”
Following his speech at March for Our Lives, Lopez continued to stay politically involved and worked during Primary Season doing phone and text banking, and organizing get out and vote campaigns. He even worked with national voter organization, Rise, to complete a state-wide campaign that encouraged voting among college students.
As part of the Civic Scholars program, Lopez is advancing this advocacy and activism skills. The program is designed for Arcadia University students who are interested and passionate about driving social change. Students participated in a pre-orientation program, and then are engaged in a specialized first-year seminar, advising and mentorship. It offers a home base, a training ground, and provides an incubator for students to learn about social advocacy and how to put it into practice in the world outside of college.
Even with all he’s accomplished so far, Lopez still has a lot he wants to do. He’s enrolled in the 3+2 program with the American Graduate School in Paris, which is three years at Arcadia University and then two years in an International Relations and Diplomacy program. After graduate school, Lopez wants to eventually run for elected office, but he said that’s still 40 to 50 years in the future. Until then, he wants to work for an organization focused on environmental advocacy.
“I’ve been passionate about climate change since I was 12,” said Lopez. “It’s not getting any better. If I don’t get to the fight in time to help stop it, I want to be in the fight for the recovery, if that even exists.”