For Houston Middle School eighth grader Emely Lopez making others feel safe, involved and heard has always been close to her heart. That’s why she is using what little free time she has outside her busy class and extracurricular schedule to master a second language and create a legacy of inclusiveness for other Houston Texans. 

Though her parents and grandparents speak Spanish, Lopez says she lost her ability to speak and write confidently in Spanish in elementary school when all her classwork and conversations with peers were in English. Now as a budding leader, she is determined to strengthen her native language and use it to include others.

“I lost touch with a lot of my Hispanic heritage because I grew up with people who weren’t Hispanic,” says Lopez. “But now I’m working on learning Spanish so I can communicate more with my dad, since he doesn’t know very much English. I really want to engage in that part of my family, because they are my confidence and I put all my trust in them.”

When she’s not working on mastering a second language, Lopez is busy helping other Houston Middle School students in any way she can. She knows first hand how difficult middle school can be, and now that all students are back in person, she is hard at work making sure younger students feel at home in their new school. 

“I want to be really involved, to make sure I help [other students] for their future,” says Lopez. “I know sixth grade is scary, finding your classes and making friends. I want to make sure everyone feels safe, and that this can become a second home to them.”

For Lopez’s mom, Norma Jimenez, her leadership comes as no surprise. 

“Since she was a baby she has grown what feels to me too fast,” says Jimenez. “She was and is very independent, always wanting to try new things on her own and not shy to go for what she wants.” 

As she thinks of her own future, Lopez is already planning her next steps as a leader and an advocate.