One Call Changed the Future for Bellevue University Alumni
As Itzel Lopez approached high school graduation, she didn’t see college in her future. That all changed with one phone call from Gina Ponce at Bellevue University. Ponce remembered meeting Itzel during outreach visits to South High School in nearby Omaha, Nebraska.
“If Gina hadn’t reached out, I don’t know that I would have gone to college,” Lopez said.
Lopez’s family moved to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 12 years old. After graduating high school, she soon got married and had a baby on the way. A scholarship from Bellevue University made it possible to consider new options.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to go to college but then Gina called,” she said. “My family comes from an entrepreneurial background. I thought by getting my degree I could start my own business or assist my family,” she said.
After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, she’s helped with the family business, become a community leader and progressed her career. Today, she is Vice President of Advancement & Community Relations at AIM Institute, where she helps connect Omahans with in-demand tech career opportunities.
The Right Fit at Bellevue University
With a new baby to care for, Lopez completed her degree one class at a time at the Bellevue University campus.
“It took me a bit longer to finish,” she said. “I had to make a lot of arrangements to make it work.”
It helped that Bellevue University provided the environment Lopez needed to complete her educational journey.
“Being born and raised in Mexico, I liked the smaller campus and smaller classes,” she said. “I felt like there was a lot more support. Teachers know your name, and you feel like you belong. They’re also flexible in meeting with you outside of class.”
My professional journey wouldn’t have been the way that it’s been without my degree,” Lopez said. “I’m so grateful that Bellevue University invests in people like me and gives equal access to education.
Supporting Her Community and Family
After receiving her degree, Lopez served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations and helped lead Omaha’s Cinco de Mayo festival for a decade. The festival now attracts more than 250,000 attendees from across the region.
During this time, her parents also opened a restaurant, Maria Bonita Mexican Cuisine. Lopez helped them with launching their website and marketing their new business. She still helps the business with its expansion plans today.
Building a Career
After a couple of years of focusing on community work, Lopez worked at Kiewit before beginning her career with the AIM Institute as an executive assistant in 2014. Throughout her eight years with the organization, she’s consistently been promoted to new opportunities.
“My professional journey wouldn’t have been the way that it’s been without my degree,” Lopez said. “I’m so grateful that Bellevue University invests in people like me and gives equal access to education.”