By Steven Krolak
(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–Ashley Lopez, a senior majoring in political science and currently interning in the Indiana General Assembly, has received a $3,000 scholarship from Verizon Communications.
She is one of only four students in the state to be honored, and the first from IU Southeast.
The Verizon Communications Intern Scholarship is open to interns who “demonstrate academic achievement, a strong work ethic and interpersonal skills, and a strong attendance and performance record during the internship program,” according to the Verizon website. Criteria include nominations by legislators, votes by peers, self-assessment, staff recommendations and personal essays.
Two students are chosen from each caucus, and one of those–in this case Lopez–is awarded the $3,000 scholarship.
The award will help Lopez continue to pursue her degree at IU Southeast at a time when her family is hard hit by the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a strong reflection of her achievement as an intern.
“The internship was an incredible opportunity to learn about the political environment and meet the individuals that make it happen,” Lopez said.
As a legislative intern, Lopez researched constituent concerns, created memos, and attended and took notes in Senate committees.
“Attending committees was my favorite aspect of the legislative process because it showed the participation of experts and the community coming to speak on issues that pertained to bills that could become law,” Lopez said. “Being aware of which bills are being hear in committee is a way to take direct action in support or in opposition of them becoming law.”
For Lopez, the study of political science has long been a drive, and the internship helped intensify that focus while also showing her the many forms involvement can take.
“Political science opened my eyes to the powerful forces operating on people and communities today namely government, institutions, and politics in the U.S.A. and around the world,” Lopez said. “It helped me understand what role I could come to play in creating the change I hope to see in the world, and gives me hope, but even more so, a sense of responsibility to step into these spaces with purpose and a community centered perspective.”
Dr. Rhonda Wrzenski, associate professor of political science and mentor to Lopez, initially encouraged her to apply for the scholarship, and helped guide her through the rigorous application process. That journey included a resume, transcripts, personal essay, writing samples, and letters of recommendation.
For Wrzenski, Lopez was the ideal candidate for the internship.
“Ashley exudes empathy, maturity, positivity, and professionalism in all of her interactions both in and out of the classroom,” Wrzenski said. “What especially impresses me about Ashley is her willingness to step outside of her comfort zone in order to advance her education. She pushes herself and makes sacrifices in this pursuit and has the foresight to understand that those trade-offs today can lead to big opportunities tomorrow.”
Wrzenski was also impressed with Lopez’s level of engagement, using her time and energy to assist vulnerable communities both on campus and in the community.
“She is never on the sidelines shouting into the void,” Wrzenski said. “She is a leader.”
In this, Wrzenski also sees Lopez as a strong representative of IU Southeast.
“When students enter our program we want them to acquire the skills necessary to shine and to be successful in any venue or career they choose,” Wrzenski said. “Ashley is a testament that our students can do anything they set their minds to and are willing to work hard at.”
As a DACA recipient and first-generation college student, Lopez is grateful for the support of her parents, siblings and community, all of whom motivate her to excel.
“Being able to represent my community in institutions and advocate for those that do not have a voice is my greatest motivation because I am a product of a strong and loving community here at IU Southeast and in the Kentuckiana area,” Lopez said.
Homepage photo: Ashley Lopez at the 2019 Latino Leadership Conference.