Lopez encourages others to pursue higher education and their dreams
Northern New Mexico College graduate and Española native Aaron Lopez has been named public relations coordinator with the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department (IAD) Office of Communications.
Lopez earned an Associate degree in Film & Digital Media Arts from NNMC, followed by a Bachelor of Integrated Studies with an emphasis of Anthropology and Film in Spring 2021. He is Vice President of the Española Valley Chamber of Commerce and Secretary at the McCurdy School Friends Foundation. In his new position he assists Cabinet Secretary Lynn Trujillo and Director of Communications Sherrie Catanach with press releases, graphic design, photography and any other tasks assigned to him.
“I love my position, and it fits who I am,” Lopez said.
Before starting a Northern, Lopez worked in IT for 10 years, a field he chose for the financial security it provided. One day he realized he hated going into work and knew he had to make a change.
“A lot of people feel that way and a lot of people don’t do anything about it. It’s about living a happy and healthy life, and if you’re not happy, it’s not healthy,” Lopez said. “My father told me, if you do something you love, you will not have to work another day for the rest of your life. And I truly believe that 100 percent.”
Lopez decided to take that advice and go back to school to study something he loved. He had done some acting, and with New Mexico’s growing film industry he decided to pursue a film degree.
Lopez’ original plan was to complete his associate degree and leave, but after winning some awards and at the encouragement of his instructor and mentors, Associate Professor David Lindblom, former NNMC President Richard Bailey and Mateo Frazier, director of Arts, Film & Media, he decided to continue to his bachelor’s degree.
“The entire Northern faculty, all my professors, have really encouraged me to pursue a lifelong career, and I think that’s what encouraged me to apply at the State of New Mexico,” Lopez said.
Several faculty urged Lopez to apply for an opening in marketing at Performance Maintenance Incorporated (PMI), which he landed. He credits that job – which he continues to do in the evenings – with preparing him for his position with IAD. He admits that balancing all his commitments is challenging, including being “cheer dad” for one daughter who is a cheerleader at McCurdy Charter School.
“What really pushes me to do all that is I have four kids. Through my education at Northern, through work and school and all the activities, I do everything for them. I really use my family as my grounding,” Lopez said.
Family was one of Lopez’ incentives for pursuing his degrees. He really believes in encouraging the younger generation to pursue higher education.
“One of the main reasons I returned to school is because at the time my children didn’t have any parents that graduated from college. I figured going back to school not only could inspire my children, but it could inspire people around my age to return school and accomplish things,” Lopez said. “Now my oldest daughter and my middle daughter are both enrolled in their first semester at Northern and I see that as a win.”
Lopez believes in setting small, personal goals that push himself to work a little harder. When he started at Northern, his goal was to be on the Dean’s List. He did it. He also met his goal of graduating with honors for his bachelor’s degree by achieving Cum Laude. He encourages others to persist in their goals.
“One thing that I would highly recommend to anyone is follow through with your dreams and aspirations,” Lopez said.
Lopez also urges students pursuing higher education to learn about and take advantage of the resources available.
“A lot of students don’t know that there’s a ton of resources at Northern, from the study labs to the writing lab to scholarships,” Lopez said. He found himself on academic probation his second semester because he was working three jobs in order to attend college. After someone made him aware there were scholarships available, he applied for and received several that helped him complete his degrees.
Lopez hopes to someday return to college. He had extra credits accumulated when he graduated and wanted to get a second bachelor’s in humanities, then pursue a master’s degree. He decided instead to focus on his children right now, but he remains in touch with Lindblom and expects to continue his education.
“I think I’ll always be a student at Northern and continue taking courses here and there,” Lopez said. “I’m in no rush. It’s pretty much a personal thing that I want to achieve these degrees. It’s not to better myself, just something I want to accomplish.