"At Saint Martin’s, I learned that there is no reason to be afraid of being your true self."
When I started looking into colleges, I was not really looking for an experience. I was looking for the quickest and cheapest way for me to earn a degree and get out into the working force...
I planned on going to community college for my first two years, playing baseball, and hopefully earning a scholarship to a Division 1 school. As a result, when my parents encouraged me to apply to Saint Martin’s, I thought heck no! Then one day, I received my acceptance letter in the mail.
Not only did the letter say “Welcome to the Saint Martin’s community” but at the bottom was a handwritten note from President Heynderickx. That note really caught my attention and made me think more about Saint Martin’s. A few weeks later, my attention was caught once again by Saint Martin’s when I received my financial award package. It blew my mind and completely changed my perception of Saint Martin’s. It no longer seemed undoable and became much more of a possibility for me.
As the deadline to say “yes, I am going to attend Saint Martin’s” approached, I tried extremely hard to convince my buddies to attend Saint Martin’s with me as I could not pass up the generous scholarship offer. However, I was unsuccessful in recruiting them, so I headed to Saint Martin’s solo. My interest in playing ball dwindled and I decided to not play here. That was really difficult for me. The piece of me with which I so closely identified was no longer there which resulted in a huge identity crisis for me. I had to discover who I was away from baseball and, man, did I struggle with that.
Fortunately, at the end of my freshman year, my friend and fellow Saint Martin’s student Stacie Pitts challenged me to apply to be an Orientation Leader to help incoming students. Now, for someone who doesn’t like stepping outside of their comfort zone, this is the least appealing job in the world because there is no such thing as a comfort zone when you’re an Orientation Leader. You kind of learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. At the time though, I saw it as a good way to meet more people, so I said, why not? Well, little did I know that this job would completely change my life and redirect the remainder of my time at Saint Martin’s.
Through the Orientation Leader program, I met two amazing people who exemplify what it means to be a Saint every day: then-director of campus life Laurel Dube and assistant director of campus life Brittany Reed. They enabled me to break out of my shell and empowered me to be the genuine version of Ben Lopez. Through their support and mentorship, I have been able to take ahold of the reins in my life and be comfortable in my own skin. Words cannot express how grateful I am for what they have done for me. All I can say is thank you so much.
That experience I had during orientation inspired me to never stop challenging myself. I went on to hold countless leadership roles, ranging from a mentor to first-year students in the residence halls, to being a senator on student government, as well as being involved in clubs and other extracurricular activities such as intramurals. This trend of challenging myself is not going to stop once I graduate, I can guarantee that. Because of my experiences here at Saint Martin’s, I have been inspired to go into the education field and do exactly what Brittany and Laurel did for me: empower students to not be afraid to live the lives they want.
I am being completely honest when I say that none of this would have happened had I not been a exposed to what Saint Martin's truly has to hold.
At Saint Martin’s, I learned that there is no reason to be afraid of being your true self. You should never be afraid to be a bit goofy at times or get fired up about some topic. When you let go of that fear is when you truly begin to enjoy life. Now, when you tell people about college is that not what you try to tell them? Shouldn’t college be that time to find out who you truly are and where you are meant to be in the world? Well, that is exactly what I have done here at Saint Martin’s.