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Alumni Profile: Scarleth Lopez

Scarleth Lopez was a participant on Stephen F. Austin State University’s first ever Pay It Forward Tour.

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Alumni Profile: Scarleth Lopez

Scarleth Lopez was a participant on Stephen F. Austin State University’s first ever Pay It Forward Tour. Originally from Dayton, Texas, Scarleth is studying psychology at SFA in Nacogdoches, Texas. Scarleth and 34 other students traveled from Nacogdoches to Atlanta, Georgia as part of SFA’s Alternative Spring Break program. As a new participant, we asked Scarleth to share her experience as a participant of SFA’s flagship PIF Tour.

This was SFA’s first year doing a Pay It Forward tour? How did you hear about STLF and why did you sign up?

I was in a program for freshmen called the Freshman Leadership Academy (FLA). Towards the end of the semester, the faculty said there would be an opportunity to attend many cities and volunteer in them all through Spring Break. FLA would cover the full cost of the trip to those who had shown their very best during the semester, all we had to do was get interviewed. Luckily, I got chosen for the scholarship and I was quite excited for it.

What surprised you most about the Pay It Forward Tour experience?

I was honestly not expecting all the friends I was going to make. We’re all in a GroupMe and everyday we’re always inviting each other for lunch, to play volleyball, or to study. I’m blessed to call these people my friends.

Are there any skills that you feel you learned or developed while you were on tour (ie. leadership, communication, patience, etc.)

Patience is a big one! We all had to sleep on the floor, eat pizza and pb&j, and endure those long bus rides with each other. There was bound to be some tension, but we all handled it pretty well. Another is compassion. We volunteered at a women’s shelter and it showed us that we are blessed with the home and a caring family. It helped enforced the “treat people with kindness” motion I’ve always liked to keep with me.

Is there one particular moment for your tour that stands out in your memory as particularly rewarding?

When we volunteered in a food pantry in Tennessee, we packed lunch bags for students who were food insecure when they weren’t in school. It was running and organizing and making sure you didn’t get cut with a packing knife, but knowing that we packed 2,940 for those students made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As someone who has been food insecure in the past, this touched my heart and I am eternally grateful for people who do everything in their power to help kids who might not know where their next meal is coming from.

Is there one particular moment for your tour that stands out in your memory as particularly challenging?

One of the hardest parts of the trip was volunteering at Gulf Shores. We dug holes and planted little plants so sand dunes could start forming. This was particularly challenging because the day was cold, sand kept flying into my mouth, and my arms hurt from digging so many holes. It was extremely challenging but it was also rewarding. We ended up planting nearly 4,000 plants which will serve to form sand dunes and nurture the ecosystem for future generations. I thought that was pretty awesome!

I understand that public service and volunteering play are big part of campus life at SFA. How do you plan to continue paying it forward on your college campus?

I am a crew member of The Big Event on campus so we put on the whole day of giving back. The Big Event was created at A&M 37 years ago to give back to their community, and 9 years ago, SFA adopted that event as well. I love volunteering and giving back so I will most likely continue being a crew member. I also recommend everyone join their local Big Event or start one in their school.

Since you just completed your first PIF tour and are officially a bonafide expert, what’s one piece of advice you would give someone who is about to embark on their first pay it forward tour?

Definitely be prepared for sore limbs and lots of work, but also look forward to the rewards. Knowing you’ve made a difference in at least one person’s life with just a few hours of your time is something that can’t be put into words. It is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, so be open minded about your volunteering opportunities, and be open to the people going with you. They can make the trip a breeze, or not so much of a breeze. They could become some of your best friends through a week of volunteering, just be open to it. 

Each month we feature a STLF alum who is making a difference through service and leadership. Know an alum that should be featured? Let us know, email info@stlf.net.

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