Robin Lόpez was once like many of his peers growing up in Richmond and San Pablo, suffering from what he called a “misguided trajectory.”
But the 28-year-old De Anza High graduate has since become an award-winning community advocate and a research associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab — factors that greatly contributed to his being invited as a keynote speaker at tomorrow’s 8th Annual Summit on Children and Youth in Richmond.
The youth summit — a collaboration between the Richmond Community Foundation and the West Contra Costa Unified School District — is set to feature a college and career fair and resource village for students, teachers and parents. It runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday at Richmond Memorial Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza.
The summit’s aim is to invite educators, community organizations and leaders, government and elected officials, businesses, and area foundations under one roof to develop innovative approaches to support the development of local youth.
Lόpez has emerged as a recent, shining example of that quest. Through resources, opportunities and mentorship — all of which will be offered at tomorrow’s summit — Lόpez‘s passion for STEM was sparked.
He may be the summit’s youngest speaker, but his experiences directly connect with those of local youth. The first in his large family to graduate from college, Lόpez said he was on the wrong path until the death of his best friend in 2010, which got him thinking about the lack of opportunities for young people in his community, many of whom had also gone through the common experience of losing friends to violence or other tragic incidents.
Lόpez says a strong family foundation and supportive cast of friends helped lead him down the right path. Opportunities are expanding for local youth, he adds, and he hopes if anything to impart on young people the importance of searching for and tapping those opportunities and mentors.
At Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Lopez is currently working on projects for the U.S. Department of Energy, including studying how water resources are affected by climate change.
He is meanwhile pursuing a graduate degree in water resources engineering. Recently, he helped organize the March for Science in San Francisco, an effort that received coverage by KQED.
Lόpez got here after earning multiple degrees at Contra Costa College before later transferring and graduating from San Francisco State University.
He even finds time to mentor and teach 4th and 5th graders for the local non-profit, Metas.
His hard-work and passion for community service has resulted in a number of high-profile awards, including the Kennedy-King Memorial Scholarship Fund award and the White House Presidential Service Award.
He may be the first Richmond native be awarded the National Science Foundation Fellowship.
“And I won’t be the last,” he says confidently.
Although he doubted himself many times, loved ones and mentors “reminded me that I had potential and much to offer the world,” Lopez said.
That appears to be the difference, as the Richmond area is “full of untapped potential,” he said.
“I am one just example of what engagement and mentorship can produce,” he said. “I can provide countless stories and examples of many others who I feel are more deserving of me. Unfortunately, at a young age they were discouraged from pursuing their interests. This summit will be a platform for me to remind our youth to maintain resiliency and push the boundaries we’re falsely confined to.”
For a schedule of events and more information about keynote speakers, workshops and other offerings at the annual summit, visit here.