RISING STARS

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Name: Liliete Lopez

Company: a student at Queens College part of The City University of New York

Title: University wide: Treasurer of the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities, Vice Chair of Disabled Students Affairs of the University Student Senate
Campus wide: Social Director of the Queens College Committee for Disabled Students.

1. What do you love about your job and why?

What I love the most about my role as a student leader is the privilege of representing CUNY’s more than 9,000 students with disabilities’ concerns. I have a special appreciation for this role because it allows me the opportunity to educate members of the “able bodied” community about the views and concerns of people with disabilities. Unfortunately, even in the year 2011, there are still members of our society that view people with disabilities as helpless individuals. I always try to educate people that if those with disabilities are offered reasonable accommodations they will often thrive and achieve the same, if not more, than their colleagues without disabilities. I often say that “Attitudes are the real disability!”

2. What are your business goals over the next five years?

I hope to graduate from Queens College with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Urban Studies. I then hope to further my education and go on to graduate school to earn a Master’s degree in Urban Public Planning. This will position me well to pursue a career as an advocate for historically disenfranchised individuals. My goal is to teach others how to advocate for themselves and members of their community. All the while, I intend to stay engaged as a student leader and to work to keep our core “businesses,” that is, the Committee for Disabled Students at Queens College, the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities, and the University Student Senate, strong, vibrant and growing. I intend to continue to contribute to a stronger grass-roots student movement to help keep CUNY strong and accessible to all students through important programs like CUNY LEADS, which creates employment opportunities for CUNY graduates with disabilities.

3. How do you give back to the community?

Every time that I have an opportunity to serve my community, I try to embrace it. For example, I offer community service at nursing homes and help with food drives to support food banks and homeless shelters. I also make it a point to participate in public hearings (CUNY, City Council, State Assembly and Senate) which allows me to share the concerns of students (particularly students with disabilities) with those in power who are decision makers. These things bring me great joy because they allow me an opportunity to have a positive impact not only in my life but in the lives of other people. There were people in my life who offered me opportunities for advancement and I am simply trying to “Pay it forward!”