FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dr. Patricia Lopez is a proud Latina and Central Valley native, but growing up she faced multiple challenges while attending school, which motivated her to take action.
"I didn't grow up having teachers who looked like me who grew up in my community. I grew up having a lot of disconnect from schools," said Dr. Patricia Lopez, Assistant Professor and Curriculum and Instruction Director, Enseñamos en el Valle Central initiative.
She pursued higher education and after years of passionate research and hard work, she landed a job back home at Fresno State as an Assistant Professor in 2018.
She also became the Curriculum and Instruction Director of the 'Enseñamos en el Valle Central' initiative.
It's a five-year, federally funded grant to develop a Hispanic serving institution.
At the time, the interim Dean of the Kremen College said this was one the largest grants the university had received and Dr. Lopez was the perfect fit.
"She took off with it and I don't think anyone else could have done it," said Laura Alamillo, former Interim Dean, Fresno State Kerman College and current Dean of the school of education at Sonoma state.
The initiative is a pipeline into higher education for underrepresented students who often don't have guidance.
"Cultivating the awareness, making the profession accessible. Young people being able to see themselves, many are first generation teachers," said Lopez.
Dori Trujillo recently graduated with her Bachelor's Degree from Fresno State and will begin her Credential Program this Fall.
She is Latina, first generation and a single mom. She says the initiative has been life changing by connecting her with the right resources and providing a pathway for her career as a bilingual teacher.
"Ensenamos and Dr. Lopez had just been rooting for me this whole time and then I found them and I want to be even more involved not just teaching but in my community," said Trujilloe.
This year, Dr. Lopez received the Provost Promising New Faculty Award.
"This award reflects her commitment to the community. Her students, the campus, the parents," said Alamillo.
Lopez says this only pushes her to strive for more change to give students a fair shot to pursue their dreams.
"I will continue to work hard to make sure that they remain and that they continue to be a part of a new culture across the Kremen college and ideally Fresno State," said Lopez.
To read more about the Enseñamos en el Valle Central initiative, click here.
To read more about Dr. Lopez, click here.