Sabrena Lopez is SWE’s Student Programs Coordinator and has been with SWE for almost a year. Prior to working at SWE Sabrena was a Project Specialist for EdVenture Partners where she managed global collegiate programming for clients such as Facebook and the Anti-Defamation League and Department of Homeland Security. These programs worked to counter hate and extremism online. Sabrena really enjoyed working with students from around the world and helping them make an impact on their local community. Prior to EdVenture Partners, Sabrena worked in the Office of the President of the Chicago Board of Education and really enjoyed being a part of the inner workings of education policy in Chicago.
Sabrena received a B.A. in Anthropology with a focus on socio-cultural anthropology from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. While in college Sabrena served in various leadership roles for Circle K International, the Illinois Student Senate, and UNICEF UIUC. She is currently in the process of running for the Community Member position on the Local School Council at her neighborhood high school, and in her third year of pursuing her MBA with a concentration on marketing and international business.
Who is your role model and why?
My mom has always been the epitome of a hard worker. She was a very young single mother of two children. She sacrificed time with us, personal time, personal health, personal anything really to make sure she was providing a home and met all of our needs. For years she worked her way up from bartender to manager to now owning her own bar. She has taught me that a strong work ethic can get you through the hardest of times and that nothing will be handed to you, so you need to seek out opportunities and learn to succeed.
Where are you from/where were you raised?
I was born and raised in Hammond, Indiana until middle school when I moved to a southside suburb of Chicago. I moved to Champaign for college and now I’ve been on the northside of Chicago for the last four years.
What is your favorite sports team?
Chicago White SOX!
What is your go-to karaoke song?
Africa by Toto. Fun Fact: While in India for the WE Local India conference a few SWE volunteers and employees spent the last night of the conference together singing karaoke together at the hotel. It was fun way to end the conference!
If you could eat one thing the rest of your life, what would it be?
My grandma’s pancakes! We call them big pancakes but really, they are called crepes – though I will never not call them big pancakes! My grandma always made them for me when we lived together and now every morning when I visit. I finally tried to make them myself and was able to capture the exact taste. I actually cried a little when I ate them because it felt like a special moment… though I looked ridiculous eating pancakes and crying.
What is your favorite place in the world?
Disney World! It was a special place for my grandpa, and we visited it together twice. Now it remains a special place that reminds me of him.
Do you have any interesting or little-known facts about yourself?
I have three dogs. A Yorkie, Mrs. Buttersworth, or just ‘Butters’ for short – she is the boss of the house. A French Bulldog, Lola – she is the baby that gets away with everything. A Bernese Mountain dog, Coco – she thinks she’s as small as my 5-pound Yorkie but is over 80 pounds at only one year old.
What was the inspiration that made you get into your field?
I am a first-generation college student and I did not have a lot of professional opportunity or direction growing up. I honestly didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself or my abilities either. However, I always worked hard to pursue opportunities that would help me grow my professional and leadership skills. In high school and college, I became very involved in student leadership programming. From this experience, my confidence in myself grew tremendously. I distinctly remember the moment I was at a week-long Leadership Academy writing a letter to myself and I stopped and thought – Why can’t I do XYZ? Who is stopping me? I realized it was only me telling myself I can’t. From then on out I promised myself to not let fear stop me from reaching for even bigger opportunities that seemed unattainable. I also gained invaluable professional and leadership skills that I still actively use today. I am very passionate about student leadership and development because it provided me with opportunities that didn’t exist to anyone in my family before and I seek to provide this type of opportunity/experience to other students to help them gain confidence in their abilities and flourish.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
I love being able to be creative and have the trust and autonomy from my department to pursue these creative endeavors. It is wonderful that I get to do something I am passionate about (student development programming) and enjoy doing (project management)!