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Victor Manuel Lopez

July 14, 1982 - November 05, 2009

“Peek-a-boo! Who loves, who loves you? ... I do, I do!“ (A favorite text Victor would send to loved ones)

Victor Manuel Lopez was born on the 14th of July 1982 in the state of Mexicali, Mexico. Shortly after, he moved to the state of Sinaloa his family’s home state. The youngest of seven, with one brother and 5 sisters, Victor was left under the care of his sisters when his mother left to work in the United States while he was still a baby. His sisters remember him as a troublemaker, but also as a sentimental child.

“He was always getting muddy, even after he’d been given a bath,” recalls his sister Cecilia with laughter. “The floor would just be mopped then Victor would show up with mud all over him. We’d warn him to not step foot inside otherwise he’d get a spanking, but before we knew it there were muddy footsteps all over the floor,” Cecilia continues laughing even harder.

“Afterwards, he’d stand in front of us with his hands on his hips and yell out ‘Spank me then!” Of course, as those who knew Victor would agree, he also had a tender side to him. When Cecilia began having trouble with her eyesight, “Victor would see me crying and he’d start crying too,” she remembers. “Then he would tell me, ‘When I grow up I’m going to be a doctor so that I can cure you!”

When Victor was seven his mother returned to Mexico and brought him with her to the U.S., but by then he was calling one of his sisters, “Mom,“ so the transition was not easy for him. Once in the U.S. (San Mateo, CA), Victor attended North Shoreview Elementary School and was placed in ESL courses, which he continued as a student at Bayside Middle School. Victor quickly overcame the challenge of learning a new language and culture, but it was around this time that Victor’s mother planned to return to Mexico. She asked Victor if he wanted to come along. Victor said no. “He knew since he was little that he wanted to be successful and he said he had no future in Mexico,” recalls Cecilia. “He would say that he didn’t want to be a burden to anyone,” she adds, illustrating Victor’s independent spirit that many would come to associate him with. With his mother gone, a 13-year old Victor lied and said he was 15 in order to get a job and contribute financially at home where he was now living with one of his sisters. Victor’s living situation had him going back and forth with different family members, all while balancing work and now being a high school student at Aragon High.

It was as a student at Aragon that Victor became a participant of an after-school program run by El Concilio of San Mateo County, the nonprofit organization serving the Latino community where he would ultimately become an employee and spend nearly a decade proudly serving his community until his untimely passing. “He was hired as a tutor at Garfield Charter School because of his excellent and committed work and was promoted to site coordinator there,” id Executive Director of El Concilio, Ortensia Lopez. “For his continued excellent work and dedication, he was promoted to community program specialist and then to youth programs coordinator that included Director of Youth mentor programs.” Victor regularly expressed the feeling that he was very proud of his students’ succeeding in various ways: such as moving on to four-year universities or receiving better employment opportunities, thanks to having acquired professional work skills after participating in the Sponsored Employment Youth Program, one of the many programs Victor spearheaded.

“He was developing into a great leader with a passion for helping youth,” Lopez continued. She pointed out that this was the big dream that Victor hoped to one day make a reality. “He had a vision to start a program focused on Latino male youth, as he felt there weren’t any that addressed their needs, and, as a result, they were more at risk for incarceration than going to college,“ Lopez said.

Victor kept an open mind and was always game for experiencing life in new ways, one of the many reasons he was a joy to be around. He loved, and made it a priority, to enjoy life. He was a big fan of the outdoors and loved to go camping. He would tell his friends that being in touch with Mother Nature gave him peace and tranquility. Victor was also a big fan of the S.F. Giants and attended as many games as he could, preferably on the bleachers where he could enjoy a basket of chicken tenders and garlic fries. Dancing, singing karaoke, spending time with his nieces and nephews whom he loved dearly, and sitting and relaxing with a venti soy chai tea at a Starbucks were other favorites of Victor.

Of the many obstacles that life challenged Victor with, like growing up without his mother, coming to a new country at a young age, or having to commute from Hayward to San Mateo and throughout San Mateo County on public transportation, he did not shy away from speaking out loud about one of his greatest obstacles: Not being able to access many opportunities due to his immigration status. Because of the lengthy and complicated process of attaining his U.S. residency, Victor would become frustrated about not being eligible for professional and academic opportunities that he was undoubtedly qualified for. “It makes me so mad to see others who can access scholarships, jobs, and schools and don’t take advantage of it! I’d do anything to be able to have what they take for granted,” Victor would tell friends and family. Nonetheless, in true Victor style, he maintained a positive attitude, as well as his focus. As a result, he graduated from the College of San Mateo in the Spring of 2009 after attending part time for about nine years. He was thrilled about his next big step in life: attending CSU East Bay in Hayward where he had been living for several years with one of his sisters. His goal was to get a degree in Business Administration and thereafter accomplish his long term goal of starting his own non-profit that focused on empowering Latino male youth.

Victor is remembered as a true inspiration to all who knew him. Though his life was cut short at the very young age of 27, he accomplished what a lot of people don’t do in a lifetime. This writing is just a small overview of who Victor was. There are not enough words to describe how special he was or all the greatness he created in so many ways. Being a natural leader, Victor would want us all to keep in our minds, hearts, and spirit the following:

“Don’t be afraid to ... ... get involved in your community - volunteer! ... tell the special people in your life that you love them; don‘t take them for granted. ... take a stand for yourself and for others who are overlooked by society. ... LOVE. ... make your dreams a reality, regardless of the obstacles.

Thank you Victor for being a true example of what a selfless person is, and for giving yourself whole-heartedly to anyone who needed it. You are a hero, OUR hero. We love you.

Whenever you feel alone Whenever you feel you want to give up Whenever you feel scared Remember that I will always be by your side

This was just another of Victor’s favorite things to text to his loved ones.

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