Sandy Oliver Lopez

An Advocate for Others

Sandy Oliver Lopez immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico with his family at age 5. He attended one of the toughest schools in Orange County, where he organized a march to urge his high school to employ certified counselors to help more students prepare for college. He has managed to earn straight A’s since high school, has continued his advocacy for social justice working toward passage of the DREAM Act and has run his own tutoring business to put himself through school.

The recipient of the USC Latino Alumni Association (LAA) scholarship, he tutors fellow LAA scholars free of charge. Of his drive and generosity, Sandy says he “looks to be a blessing, not be blessed.”

Now a Ph.D. student in the Biostatistics Division in the Department of Preventive Medicine of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, he adds: “I’m never envious of people who have more talent or more capabilities or resources than I do. I will continuously give back, even when I reach a higher level. It’s my responsibility to help someone else. As a community we rise and, of course, as Latinos, it’s important that young Latinos have a good example. Sometimes all they need is to hear, ‘Hey you can do it.’”

He says that tutoring is just something he’s learned to be good at, particularly math. “Math provides insights into how the world works—whether it’s mechanics, business … or anything. [I want] to make sure that people who interact with me develop that ability to see the world differently. I love the whole one-on-one interaction and seeing the [aha] moment. That’s priceless to me.”

The Keck School’s Department of Preventive Medicine, where he is pursuing his Ph.D., is home to worldwide authorities on prevention research in biostatistics, and the program’s high ranking and capacity for having a global impact attracted Sandy.

Of his long-term goals, he says: “Success to me is making sure that I’m taking care of my family—my parents and my little brother. Once I achieve this degree, I have the ability to be active in my community at a higher level. I’ll know more people and have more resources and be able to connect people who can help each other.”