Written by Becky Mayad from UNT Dallas
ABYGAIL ZIELA LOPEZ: FIRST-IN-HER-FAMILY COLLEGE GRAD, CAREGIVER AND TEACHING ASSISTANT AIMS TO BECOME PRINCIPAL
Abygail Ziela Lopez is the first on both sides of her family to graduate from college, and, even with the full backing of her extended family, it hasn’t been easy. She recently graduated from UNT Dallas with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree with a minor in human services and leadership. By the way, commencement was held at Texas Trust CU Theatre at Grand Prairie.
Originally from Oak Cliff, she not only successfully navigated remote learning during the pandemic, but during her junior year, she faced one of the most difficult times of her life.
When her beloved grandfather was diagnosed with late-stage cancer, the full-time student quit her job to help take care of him and babysit her cousins so family members could spend precious time with the patriarch during his final days. She made the same sacrifice when an aunt fell ill and passed away.
Somehow, thanks to the compassionate support and guidance of her UNT Dallas professors – along with many late nights studying by the side of her grandpa and during hours of babysitting – she remained in college and kept up her grades.
She admits she knew nothing about higher education until her family’s move and her enrollment in Arlington ISD, where she was introduced to the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program. It was a lifesaver, and for her parents, college became a “no brainer.” UNT Dallas was the first college she visited, and she immediately fell in love.
For the past two years, one of her numerous part-time jobs has been working at Grand Prairie ISD, where she serves as a bilingual/ESL instructional assistant. That work has inspired her to attain her special-education teaching certification, which she expects to receive this August (Her long-term goal is to become a school principal.) This fall she’ll combine work and studies once again as she pursues her master’s degree in education and is considering returning to UNT Dallas.