Krystal Lopez is pursuing an advanced degree in occupational therapy (OT) for one simple reason. “I want to help people,” she says.
“A lot of us don’t realize how much we take the things that we’re able to do for granted, until we’re no longer able to do them,” Lopez continues. “Being able to help people regain their independence, become happier, and have a better life overall—that’s what really inspires me.”
Born and raised in Santa Ana, Calif., Lopez is an OT graduate student at CSUDH. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and social behavior, she decided to transition over to OT studies for her graduate work. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in OT from CSUDH.
Lopez’s hard work and dedication have earned her a 2023 CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement. The Trustees’ Award is the California State University’s highest recognition of student achievement, providing annual scholarships to one student from each CSU campus who demonstrates superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service, and financial need. In addition to the CSU Trustees’ Award, Lopez was named the 2023 TELACU Scholar.
“The life stories of these extraordinary students who have triumphed over personal hardships to stand among the university system’s most distinguished scholars are a testament to the transformative power of public higher education,” said CSU Interim Chancellor Jolene Koester in announcing the awards.
Lopez’s OT journey began during her senior year at UCI, when she started volunteering at an OT clinic as part of her studies. The COVID-19 pandemic limited her options, but she eventually found a clinic that was accepting new volunteers.
“I really liked it there,” she says. “I loved the people, the staff, and especially the kids I got to work with. I ended up getting offered a job there.”
Many of Lopez’s co-workers at the clinic had an OT background and were familiar with the program at CSUDH. “They spoke really highly of it and said to be prepared because it was really competitive. But I took a chance, applied, and got in! My peers were very happy for me because they went through the same process and knew how difficult it was.”
As a first-generation college student, Lopez is proud to be a part of the CSUDH OT community. “We have really amazing professors that bring a lot of great insights. They’re able to help us understand what we need to learn to be to become better professionals. Even though there’s a big cohort of us in the program, it’s divided into individual sections, which helps us get close to and rely on each other.”
After earning her master’s, Lopez would like to return to Santa Ana and work with children there. “I want to be able to give back to my community. I grew up there and know what kinds of struggles the people go through. I want to bring back the knowledge I’ve gained and bring resources back into the community.
“Basically, I just want to help kids so that they’re also able to do whatever it is that they want to do!”