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“I knew I’d be attending Bay Path the moment I drove onto the campus,” recalls Delmarina Lopez. The certainty surprised Lopez, a first-generation student whose family moved to Chicopee, Massachusetts, from Puerto Rico when she was nine years old.

“I was accepted to every school I applied to, and I had initially pictured myself somewhere else, but my family experienced back-to-back deaths during prom/graduation time, and we were all very fragile,” Lopez explains. “I didn’t want them to have to experience the ‘loss’ of me, too. When I turned into that main driveway, there was this release. I didn’t feel like I was in Chicopee or Springfield, but yet, I felt completely at home.”

From a young age, Lopez felt pulled toward seeking fairness and justice and was known in her family as the go-to, ready-to-argue mouthpiece for those who’d been wronged. “I knew I wanted to be a lawyer. I was always advocating for people. Whether it was siblings or classmates, I was always pleading a case. I had a deep need to understand why things are happening, and that’s what I think a lawyer does,” she recounts.

Arriving at Bay Path, Lopez began working toward the goal of law school as a psychology major, but found the courses “very theory-based.” “I was looking for something more practical,” she explains. She switched to legal studies “because I thought that was how you got to law school.”

She was discussing her long-term goals with her then-professor, Liz Dineen, who shared some life-changing advice. “Professor Dineen told me I could go to law school with any major. She said there are biology majors, English majors, etc. in law school,” Lopez remembers. “It got my gears turning.”

It was in a criminal justice course taught by Attorney Alesia Days that Lopez’s vision for herself truly crystallized. “She was the first Black professor that I had had, actually the first Black teacher. During my entire education, I did not have one teacher who was Black. And there’s something about that, as a Latina, to see another woman of color teaching. I found that I enjoyed these classes more than any other classes--both the subject matter and the connection that I felt with Professor Days.”

Lopez carried that interest into her studies at Western New England University’s School of Law, where she completed her Juris Doctor in 2020. While her interest in criminal justice has remained constant, her plans for applying that interest have shifted. Next semester, she’ll begin as an adjunct professor in Bay Path’s Justice Studies program, teaching Introduction to Criminal Justice, in addition to a 400-level course for justice studies majors called Justice and Advocacy.

“Students will have to implement all the skills they’ve learned in prior courses and apply them towards advocacy work in the community,” she explains. “Students will work hands-on, not only with me, but with other members of the community.”

“There is a lot of pressure to overwork yourself in your career, and as a Latina woman, who in many ways has paved a road, I feel a lot of pressure to set that example,” she states. “But I see a big problem with work-life balance for us. It’s made me realize a law career is not necessarily number one in my life. What’s number one for me is my family and my community, which I consider to be one and the same.”