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Michelle Lopez: Showing gratitude, every day

Born and raised in Barstow, Michelle Lopez was active in city league softball, Girl Scouts, and volunteering at church as a youth group leader.
She continued involvement in sports and activities while in junior high and high school and even managed to get her first job at 16 working at McDonald’s. She graduated from Barstow High School in 1985, and a week later she was hired at Fort Irwin.
“I attended Barstow Community College part-time while employed full-time at Fort Irwin,” Lopez recalled. “During the time I worked at Fort Irwin (12 years).”
She continued her education by attending Park University to earn a Social Psychology degree, and also completed a master's degree in School Counseling from University of La Verne in 1998.
“Upon completion of my graduate degree is when I have to say doors opened and this is when my career started,” she said. “I was soon hired as a high school counselor at Barstow High School. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to work at the same high school my parents, sibling, and nephews, attended and graduated from.”
During her first year at Barstow High School, she was also hired at Barstow Community College as an adjunct counselor and instructor.
“I am still employed at both places and thoroughly love doing both as they go hand in hand since I am continuing to work with some of the same students in high school as they transition to Barstow Community College. And in some instances I work with their parents who are also attending college to further their education.”
Lopez considers herself blessed to have both of my parents alive and living in Barstow — as well as one sister, two nephews, and one niece.
“We are a very close family, as we were raised with good morals and values,” she said. “We were also taught to give thanks daily to our Lord and make the time to attend church on a weekly basis, even when we are on vacation. This is something that I continue to do today as an adult. When making traveling plans, I always look for a church in the area and make it a point to attend.”

Q: Describe a special memory you have in the High Desert.
A: This may seem strange but one of my fondest memories was when former Chief of Police Robert Sessions passed away. At the time, I was taking Administration of Justice courses through Barstow Community College and he was my instructor. His classes were always filled with students who enjoyed his teaching style, charisma, and compassion. The outpouring of the community was amazing the day of his funeral. I have never seen so many people in attendance with so much love and admiration for a wonderful leader in our community.

Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I have wonderful man in my life so when we get the chance we take every opportunity to travel to locations where we can explore the beauty of the outdoors and enjoy the physical activities that come along with it. But when our schedules’ don’t align, I simply enjoy reading.

Q: Tell us one thing that most people don’t know about you.
A: I have always had a passion for law. I would still like to go back to school to study law.

Q: If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
A: Have a better system in place to deal with the ongoing problem of poverty.

Q: What person, living or from history, would you most like to have dinner with and why?
A: I have always been fascinated with the 16th President — Abraham Lincoln. I love the nick name given to him “Honest Abe.” He was a leader who was kind, sensitive, compassionate, had empathy for others and above all displayed the best characteristic of all, “humility.” I would like to have dinner with him because I value all of the things he displayed as an individual. I would ask him to tell me more about his upbringing and how he learned to handle adversity and control his emotions when he was the President.

Q: Who is someone who had a big influence on your life?
A: My father because he was a hard-working man who modeled the traits one should have while employed. He taught me integrity, punctuality, and dedication. He was consistent, loving, and rational while raising my sister and me. My father was the primary provider for our family growing up. He worked for the City of Barstow, coached our softball team, and volunteered his time working with young adults and teens throughout the community. I would see the positive affect my dad would have on other peers my age and even today as he works as a substitute campus monitor at Barstow High School, he still has the compassion and charisma with the students he interacts with. He taught me to be independent, work hard at any job I have, and always plan financially for the future. I think this is why I am in the counseling field today. I believe by watching him interact and help others, I felt the compassion to help others as well.

Q: What talent do you most wish you had?
A: I wish I could play the piano.

Q: What is your favorite quotation?
A: Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.

Q: What words of advice do you have for the next generation?
A: Choose a career you love, rather than a career based on income. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you are miserable doing what you do on a daily basis.
Q: Tell us about the charities or causes that are close to your heart and why.
A: Relay for Life. Cancer has affected some of my family members. In my teens, my grandma lived with us while she was going through cancer treatment. The disease took half of her face and she had to be fed through a feeding tube. Unfortunately after a few years she lost the battle.

Q: What is something you are particularly proud of?
A: Earning a perfect attendance award while working at Fort Irwin and Barstow High School.

Q: What’s your favorite movie and why?
A: “The Pursuit of Happiness.” In this movie when Will Smith ends up a single dad homeless, continuously faced with setbacks, he still goes on persevering on a daily basis. He even interns for free, which is something most people would do down on their luck, but it pays off in the end. I especially like when he says, “Don’t even let somebody ever tell you that you can’t do something. If you have a dream, you protect it. If you want something, go get it.” So often we self-talk ourselves out of things based on fear of failing or rejection. This movie shows us we can do what we set our mind to as long as we have the determination.

Q: Tell us about your favorite thing about living in the High Desert?
A: I love the gorgeous sunrise, dry heat, and the ability to get from one place to another in a short amount of time. And of course, I love that I don’t have to spend time on the highway commuting to and from work.

Q: What is the best thing about your job?
A: Building relationships with students and helping them academically. It is always a pleasure to see students as they earn their high school diploma or the college student who has earned their degree. Another great aspect of my job is the lasting relationships I have made with former students. It’s so good to hear their success stories and about their careers and family several years later.

Q: What book had a significant impact on you?
A: Joel Osteen’s “Become a Better You.” The book encourages one to live with a positive attitude and each day, show gratitude.

Q: Of all the places you’ve been, what’s your favorite and why?
A: My favorite place would have to be Paris, France. I enjoyed the delicious food, the shopping experience, and the beautiful flowers, trees, and vegetation. The people we came in contact with while sight seeing were polite and kind. It was customary when visiting family and friends, that they feed you or give you a gift before you leave. It would be considered rude to not accept tea, coffee, or dessert when visiting. The most interesting thing to me was how many courses we would eat before the main meal. It was an enjoyable experience.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
A: Rome, I would like to visit all of the historical sites and if given the opportunity I would like to attend a daily mass. I especially enjoy studying Michael Angelo while in college and his works on the Sistine Chapel. If given this experience, I would be able to see a part of history I studied.

Q: Tell us about one thing you want to accomplish in life.
A: To travel to as many places as I can before I retire and after.

Q: What’s your favorite place to eat in the High Desert?
A: My two favorite places are Rosita’s and Los Domingo’s …  not only because I enjoy the food, but also because the owners are my good friends who have always been great supporters in the community and when I need their support with high school functions.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: If the economy gets better, I hope to have the opportunity to transition full-time as a Counselor at a community college or university.

Q: What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?
A: Shopping for shoes and handbags.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
A: I am humbled I was chosen to be interviewed, thank you.


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