Aravaipa’s Mercedes Lopez named Central Arizona College’s Student of the Month for April

EASTERN PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – Mammoth native and Central Arizona College Aravaipa Campus student Mercedes Lopez has had one of the more unique college experiences ever told. 

It’s not just the fact that Mercy - as she is known by students, faculty and the staff - is a mother to three kids, two of whom are of adult age. Nor is it simply the fact that she is the president of Aravaipa’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society of the two-year colleges. 

It’s also the fact that her daughter is currently in her first year at CAC alongside Lopez, thrusting the mom-turned-student into a mentorship that is far different from the usual mother-daughter relationship. 

“She’ll ask me lots of questions about the college and my experience,” Lopez explained. “And I’m proud of her because she’s actually gotten a taste of what hard work and college are like.” 

Lopez recalls having pulled all-nighters with her daughter on more than one occasion, motivating her through those tough stretches when the schoolwork seems never-ending. 

It is because of her devotion to her family and service to the Eastern Pinal County community that Mercy has earned CAC Student of the Month honors for April. 

“It’s an honor,” she said. “And this helps set an example for my kids that, even at my age, it’s never too late to go back to school.” 

And Lopez has gone back to school in more ways than one. As part of the Phi Theta Kappa chapter’s college project, she went to Ray High School to encourage students to attend CAC. 

In December, Lopez also led the chapter to the Mammoth Elementary STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) School to provide learning activities to more than 100 students, faculty and parents on the subject of Native American foods. 

Lastly, Lopez and her fellow Phi Theta Kappa students set up a table at Mammoth Elementary STEM where children made snowflakes and placed their handprints on a banner that was destined for Sandy Hook Elementary as a show of support for the victims of the tragic shooting that took place at the Newtown, Conn., school in December. 

“It was cool,” Lopez said with the same fervor as a teenager. “The kids really were enthusiastic about doing something like that.” 

On campus, Mercy is quick to aid her fellow PTK member and recruit new members. 

She is very dedicated to the organization and puts in many hours working on chapter objectives, reaching out to prospective members, educating new members about benefits, and helping members access information on scholarships,” Maren Wilson, a professor of anthropology and social sciences at CAC and Aravaipa’s Phi Theta Kappa advisor, stated. 

While Lopez is flattered by her Student of the Month distinction, it all comes back to family for her. Mercy enrolled in classes at CAC after growing weary of the same part-time jobs with the same meager wages. 

Deciding that she rather do something of higher significance while also providing additional income for her family, Lopez earned a medical administrative assistant certificate and currently is pursuing a medical assistant degree. 

“I just want to support my family and their goals and wishes,” she said before heaping more gratitude toward a specific member of her family. “I’ve been married for 20 years now and my husband has been a great support system as I’ve gone back to school. If it weren’t for him, I don’t think I would have been able to go back to school. There have been evenings where I haven’t been able to make dinner because of homework or staying up late because of exams - he’s been great at supporting me and our children.”
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