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APCH Alumni Spotlight

Coding, College, and Community: Edwin’s Story

Anteater, software developer, community advocate. APCH Alumnus, Edwin Lopez recently shared an inspiring update on his life as a recent college graduate, and how the pandemic has influenced his course. 

“My mom planted the seed. You HAVE to go to college, she would tell me. But, Miss Marcee really inspired me. As a teenager, I would go to The Bridge (at APCH) and she and Dr. Taylor would always talk about college and the resources available to me.” Edwin shared when prompted for details about what led to his graduating with a Software Engineering degree from the highly competitive program at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Home of the Anteaters, UC Irvine also happens to be the alma mater of our beloved Teen and Young Adult Services Program Manager, “Miss Marcee” Dela Cruz.

Though the choice to attend UCI may have seemed easy, Edwin’s early days in college were anything but. “When I went to college, I was the first in my family. My family couldn’t help me navigate it because they hadn’t experienced it. It’s crazy how my study habits changed from High School. I had to work harder.” Edwin shared with a laugh. “It may sound corny, but with hard work anything is possible.”

Edwin became an APCH member at the age of 12 and enjoyed enrichment programs in the arts, education, and wellness throughout middle school and high school. He then joined the ranks of the 450 amazing people known as APCH Shaheen Scholars. This special group of individuals receive academic, financial and counseling support from APCH while attending 4-year universities, thanks to the investments of The David and Linda Shaheen Foundation, and other generous donors. 

Edwin worked hard while on campus at UCI and during summers he returned to South Central, to be with family and work as an Intern at A Place Called Home. “I had taken a semester-long coding class in High School that sparked my interest in software engineering. I wanted to inspire that same interest in APCH members who might want to pursue it in college, so I asked Dr. Taylor if I could create and teach a class.” 

This kind of bold ingenuity to use his talents in service of others appears to be a theme for Edwin. Upon graduating from UC Irvine, he secured an internship with a digital agency making Augmented Reality filters for Facebook and Instagram. After six months, Edwin pivoted to working in the public sector and, in his free time, working on a web application to support undocumented students in their search for college scholarships. 

Despite it being different from my degree, I decided to follow that route for the main reason that I love helping out my community. When I was growing up I got a lot of support from my community that helped me get where I am today.” said Edwin. “Working in public service has allowed me to give back and share that support with others. I currently work for Para Los Ninos, where I research, gather and present resources to community members affected by COVID-19.”

As for the passion project he is working on in his free time, Edwin explained, “I’m working on a team project that will be a web application for exploring, searching, and sharing scholarships…I decided to be part of this project because I thought it was the perfect opportunity to combine two of my passions, making software and helping others. Another motivating factor is that as a Dreamer, I remember how difficult and overwhelming the process of finding scholarships was.”

The APCH Teen and Young Adult Services team members gush when Edwin’s name is brought into conversation. Adjectives like smart, caring, kind and quietly confident are offered with the type of pride typically reserved for family members. It’s apparent that Edwin’s time at A Place Called Home – as a young member, Shaheen Scholar and College Intern – were days of deep joy for our tight-knit team. Our APCH family looks forward to seeing how Edwin continues to explore the intersections of his passions for service and technology, and we look forward to sharing how his brilliance may bring innovative solutions to meet the needs of our community.

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