You may be surprised to learn how many of Notre Dame’s first-year students are published authors even before they set foot on campus.
First-year student Alexis Lopez is one of them.
As a seventh-grader in Manila, Philippines, where she is from, Lopez began volunteering with the White Cross Orphanage in nearby San Juan. White Cross is home to children ages newborn to 13, who for various reasons are awaiting reunification with their families or placement in alternative homes.
Lopez continued her volunteer work at White Cross through high school. In addition to holding drama workshops, she loved reading stories to the children, who clamored for more at the end of each book.
She noticed, though, that there weren’t many books available that spoke directly to the experiences of these particular children. And while all children appreciate fun stories, Lopez sensed a need for those that could help and comfort the White Cross residents. Since she could find none readily available, she decided to remedy that.
In 2018, Lopez wrote and published Jodie’s Journey, an illustrated children’s book that tells the story of a young orphan who lives in St. Mary’s Orphanage whose friends are her only family. Jodie’s life changes unexpectedly when she learns that she will be moving to Spain to live with new parents. The children’s book contains both English and Filipino versions of the story.
“I thought about how there was no story written about adoption yet,” Lopez told BusinessWorld in 2018. “I think that when we read about characters in books who go through something similar as us, it makes us feel reassured. So, I thought that maybe in writing this book, I’d help these children be able to transition more smoothly to their new lives in their new homes.”
Lopez went on to publish another children’s book, Tata's Once Upon a Time, which told three stories from her grandfather’s life.
In her work with White Cross, Lopez explored the joy of sharing stories and how meaningful they can be—as a form of communicating, yes, but also as a way to acknowledge people and make them feel “seen.”
Now a first-year student at Notre Dame, Lopez is continuing her work with stories. She is an intended English major, with plans to add a supplementary major in global affairs and a minor in journalism, ethics, and democracy.
Lopez says she chose Notre Dame for a number of reasons, but, as a prospective student, was particularly touched by the University’s What Would You Fight For? video series.
“I watched a few of those videos as a prospective student and I think it really gave me a fuller sense of what the Notre Dame community was about and what it stands for,” she says. “I saw that no matter what different students or different professors chose to study, there’s always this desire to give back. And it was that level of awareness and sense of responsibility that I felt like I wanted to be a part of.”
Lopez wanted to be part of a community that uses their knowledge to make the world a better place. She found Notre Dame’s mission to be a force for good in the world a perfect fit for her.
So far, that is holding true for her as she has explored ways to get involved in the Notre Dame community. She’s a lector for the Masses in Lyons, which take place on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. This is something she wasn’t able to do in high school, so she’s grateful for the opportunity to be part of the spiritual community here.
Lopez is also an active member of the Filipino-American Student Organization (FASO), which promotes and celebrates Filipino culture on campus. “I think it’s reassuring to be part of a community that makes it feel like home again even though I’m 8,000 miles away,” says Lopez.
She also took advantage of the opportunity to go on the Freshman Retreat hosted by the Asian American Association, where she met the friends she’s closest with on campus. “It was a great way to just meet a lot of different people who come from a similar culture as myself and build that sense of community and friendship among the first-years,” says Lopez.
Connection is important to Lopez and, whether she’s hanging out with other students or exploring the topics in her courses, she’s aware of the role stories play in her life and the lives of others. “I’ve always seen the value in listening to and sharing the stories of others,” she says.
That’s why she’s chosen to pursue English, global affairs, and journalism.
“While I’m not entirely sure what I want to do in the future...one thing that I definitely want to have is the opportunity to tell the stories of people who aren’t able to share their own story.” No matter what career she chooses to pursue in the future, Lopez hopes to give a voice to people who don’t have one.