THE GOAL KEEPER
Ex-Marine wages successful campaign as school counselor
(Reprint from the Moreno Valley, CA Press Enterprise, December 16, 2003)
MORENO VALLEY - In his 22 years as a Marine, Anthony Lopez picked up a few skills that prepared him for his second career: school counselor at Moreno Valley High.
Helping students accomplish their goals and making parents - especially Spanish-speaking ones - feel involved drives the retired lieutenant colonel and Vietnam veteran to work 67 hours a week, including weekends.
"As a Marine, I was taught to be goal oriented," Lopez said. As a result, he focuses on helping parents and students achieve their goals.
"Every parent should have the resources to be able to help their children accomplish their goals in life," he said.
On Saturdays, Lopez meets with parents who do not speak English well to fill them in on options their children have after graduation, or to give other helpful information. Students also can get tutoring.
Lopez, a Riverside native, teaches a general computer class to Spanish-speaking parents on Wednesday nights to help empower them.
He shows them how to use word processing, database and presentation programs and how to use the Internet and e-mail.
"I saw that there was a need to provide specialized services for our monolingual parents, so they could assist their students," Lopez said.
Leticia Rivas, a mother of two, said she already is feeling more confident in the three months since she has been in Lopez' class.
"He explains very well, and he gives us goals to come out ahead, just like he does with the kids at school," she said. "I've been wanting to take classes since last year. I want to learn. If you don't know how to use a computer, you don't know anything."
Two of Rivas' sons - one of whom graduated few years ago - have had Lopez as a counselor, she said.
"Every time he needed help, Mr. Lopez was always there."
Other programs Lopez has been involved with include bringing a Latina sorority from UC Riverside to tutor students, helping coordinate ex-gang members to give motivational talks to students who are at risk of joining gangs and helping coordinate parent volunteers to patrol the campus during lunch time.
Principal Paul Rodriguez said Lopez impresses him.
"I'm really amazed," Rodriguez said. "He's such a dedicated, giving person."
Lopez often buys refreshments for the school's English Language Advisory Council meetings when the parents group meets to discuss school issues, Rodriguez said.
"I feel very fortunate that he does this out of his own heart," Rodriguez said.
Lopez has been at Moreno Valley High School for seven years and with the Moreno Valley Unified School District for 10 years.
He has a bachelor's degree in history from the University of San Diego, a master's in human-resources management from Pepperdine University and a master's degree in education from Cal State San Bernardino.
Married for 32 years, Lopez has four children, ages 22 to 30.
His closely cropped hair and his formal dress are proof that he still misses the Marines, he said.
But now, his place is at Moreno Valley High School.
"I like it here," he said. "This is a good school, and I've enjoyed working with the students, staff and community."
(When he's not in the counseling office fielding student questions, the Moreno Valley High School counselor is getting Spanish-speaking parents involved with the school.
"He explains very well and he gives us goals to come out ahead, just like he does with the kids at school," said parent Leticia Rivas, who takes a computer class taught by Lopez. )