By DAVID LOPEZ
As is common in the Rio Grande Valley, Brenda Lopez grew up as a first-generation Mexican immigrant daughter. From an early age, Lopez could sense that education provided an escape from poverty, beginning her education at the age of three in Headstart’s low-income schooling. After 20-plus years in school, Lopez graduated with her Master’s degree in student affairs from Texas State University in 2019, the first in her family of eight to do so. Now, Lopez has decided to teach students how to fill in the gaps left by the public education system.
As a college advisor in the San Marcos school district, Lopez is the founder and CEO of ElevateMente, a personal and professional consulting platform that aims to help college students best prepare for the workforce and transition to life after college.
“ElevateMente is a platform for voicing topics that inspire, develop, and help students learn about different areas of their life,” Lopez said. “It is a professional space. Students should have the opportunity to be the best professionals they can be when they step into the workforce after college, but with that comes personal growth as well.”
Graduating from San Benito High School in 2011, Lopez received her Bachelor’s in Communication from Texas State after being one of the first generations to benefit from SBHS’s Upward Bound programs, aimed at helping low-income students get into college.
“San Benito is very demographically Hispanic and low-income, and that speaks volumes to me because I am currently graduated with two degrees. I think about my life in San Benito High and how there was so much potential for growth,” she said.
Although Upward Bound, the TRIO Program, and the College and Career Centers at SBHS helped Lopez get to higher ed, she felt very little was taught in her school about what to do after college.
“After graduating with my Master’s, I went through some post-grad depression,” she said. “I struggled to get out of bed, and applying for jobs felt like a job I didn’t get paid for. I didn’t know how to articulate my experiences on my resume, and this resonated with a lot of my friends who had also graduated.”
Not knowing life outside of school motivated Lopez to spare other students from going through the same thing, resulting in her idea to teach workshops through ElevateMente. The workshops she offers include help in productivity tips and professional development, such as utilizing LinkedIn. However, she states the post-grad life is not only about a career. “Many conversations I’ve had in my workshops are about race, post-grad depression, and imposter syndrome in the workplace and classroom, not just professional life.”
Lopez is offering her workshops for free, wishing for this initiative to develop organically. And although her target audience is college seniors about to graduate, she keeps her platform open to any other students who might experience growth from a personal development course.
Despite the fact she works with higher-ed students, Lopez admits she doesn’t believe college is the only roadmap to success.
“No one can ever take your education away, so I do believe it is important to have some education, but the more I keep working with first-generation students, the more I’m learning that success is not linear, and neither is education,” she said. “Young adults can become professional without a degree.”
Lopez looks back on her time at San Benito with nostalgia, visiting her family any chance she gets. She wishes to encourage local students to not be defined by their upbringing and not to sell themselves short.
“If you see an opportunity, take it,” she said. “Learn what you can and use it to aggressively pursue your goals.”