Veteran Alex Lopez Found Support and Direction at Ohio State Newark
After serving in the United States Marine Corps for four years as a refueler, The Ohio State University alumnus Alex Lopez had no idea what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. He initially pursued cooking school but again realized that he had no idea why he had chosen to pursue it. Lopez decided that a bigger change was necessary. Even though the road ahead included challenges, the support he received at Ohio State Newark helped him find the strength to never give up on finding his dream.
“I reached out to a family member that coincidentally lived in Columbus. He went into detail about this beautiful place called Ohio where football is life, and everyone shouts O-H as they walk by you on Saturdays during football season. He told me it would be a great move on my end,” said Lopez. “That is when I switched gears and decided to pursue education and better myself academically.”
After being convinced that Ohio would be the place for him, Lopez began looking at enrolling at Ohio State. He found that Ohio State Newark’s small, easy-to-navigate campus with friendly people was the place for him.
“Having that engagement with people on campus made it feel like home. I also liked the diversity of students, faculty and staff,” Lopez said. “The free parking was also a huge plus.”
Despite being no stranger to challenges, he found himself scrambling for a place to live when he got to Ohio State Newark. The family member he had planned to live with had decided to take an amazing job opportunity in Florida. Lopez was surprised to find out that living in on-campus housing was not an option for an older student like himself, so he quickly found off-campus housing in Newark.
He also faced not knowing which field of study was of interest to him. Lopez initially began at Ohio State as an education student feeling like someday being a teacher would be right for him, but like many others he changed his major. He had two professors who influenced him at Ohio State Newark: Carrie Wysocki, education lecturer, and Jennifer Seas, social work lecturer and program manager.
“Being in college was new, exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, but there were a ton of amazing people that helped me. Two that will always stand out are Carrie Wysocki and Jennifer Seas. Carrie saw something in me and pushed me to be the best teacher I could be, but being a teacher wasn’t enough,” said Lopez. “While sitting in classrooms, I noticed students that had additional needs that the teacher could not meet. That is when I sought out a new major. I reached out to Jennifer Seas to get more information about social work.”
Lopez met both academic and personal challenges while completing his education. He sought help with math through tutoring, met with his instructors for guidance and academic help and spent hours in the library studying and researching. Unfortunately, he landed in the Office of Student Life due to student misconduct a couple of times. One such time another student felt threatened by Lopez’s military background causing him to seek out other military/veteran students.
“Vets for Vets was the support group I needed in my life. I always kept in touch with them and reached out when I needed assistance. They helped me adapt to civilian and college life, which helped me push through school,” he said.
Along with the support from his fellow student Veterans, Lopez received the most support and encouragement from Seas. She pushed him on a personal and professional level to help him achieve his goals and become the first person in his family to earn a degree from a four-year university. Even when Lopez’s GI Bill assistance ran out and he was sure his only option was to quit school, Seas reassured him and then connected him to Jamie White, director of retention and student success initiatives, who helped him find scholarships to cover the cost of his final semester at Ohio State Newark. He graduated in May 2018 with his Bachelor of Science in Social Work.
Lopez now works at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in the Partners for Kids department as a quality outreach coordinator. The team consists of social workers who assist children with behavioral health issues.
“I love what I do, and I am happy that I found a field that makes me happy,” he said. “I am grateful for Ohio State Newark and the many people there who helped me get to this point.”
Caption: Lopez at his first Ohio State football game.
The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that is inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service-learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.