Life has been a tough climb at times for Nicolas Lopez.
However, Lopez got a boost during his four years at Gonzaga Preparatory School, and now he has a full ride to college.
Better yet, he’ll be staying in the city he first saw only four years ago.
“I’ve really come to love Spokane,” said Lopez, who plans to major in economics at Gonzaga University.
Lopez’s path was long and even painful. Born in Colorado to a French father and Puerto Rican mother, he later moved to Chicago.
His parents divorced when Lopez was in the second grade, and he spent the next seven years with mother in Puerto Rico.
It’s a land of sunshine and scenery, but with few opportunities.
By then his father had settled in Spokane and told him about Gonzaga Prep – “an education I wasn’t going to get in Puerto Rico,” said Lopez, who dreamed of becoming the first in his family to attend college.
Lopez arrived in Spokane in the summer of 2017.
Lopez embraced his new school and the community, turning out for wrestling until he dislocated a shoulder, volunteered as a peer tutor and worked on the yearbook staff.
“He is neither a flashy guy, nor one who is loud in a ‘Hey, everyone, pay attention to me’ kind of way,” said his counselor, Brian Spraggins.
“He is simply a very sincere, polite, respectful young man who offers a ready smile and the authenticity of being himself – comfortable in his own skin,” Spraggins said.
Lopez found inspiration from former G-Prep teacher Rick LaBelle, who taught religious studies and also led the school’s rock climbing club.
“He was a really big part of my time at G-Prep,” Lopez said.
However, the pandemic hit the Lopez family hard. After his father lost working hours, Lopez got a job at REI – a natural stop for an outgoing kid who also loves the outdoors.
“I don’t know how personable I am, but I enjoy being around my peers,” Lopez said.
“He has a keen mind and a giving heart,” Spraggins said.
Lopez also is modest.
“I really like learning about the way things work, and I really like biology and chemistry,” he said. “But I’m not as good in those subjects as I thought I was.”