By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Spare time is a rarity for 16-year-old Ana Lopez.
The Roseland University Prep junior has devoted herself so wholeheartedly to community service in the past four years that her whereabouts after school or during the summer are almost a foregone conclusion.
Friends, teachers and family know that if she’s not tackling homework or out on the soccer field playing for the Knights, she’s attending to one or more of a half dozen volunteer projects.
There’s the anti-underage drinking and driving campaign, the youth book drive and the healthy eating and living initiative, to name just a few.
Some weeknights she doesn’t return home until 9:30 p.m.
Ana has donated more than 1,000 hours to community service in the past two years alone, but she sees the long days as working toward her future.
“I’ve learned I like to help people,” she said recently during a spare moment at her school. “Community service has really opened doors for me.”
Those pathways lead to college. Ana is taking advanced placement classes and would be the first in her family to attend a university.
They also include some ambitious career plans. She envisions herself working in broadcasting or engineering and later perhaps making a run for Santa Rosa mayor.
“I want to be a leader people will look up to,” she said. “It takes a lot of time though. I’ve learned that.”
Ana’s supporters say the role has changed her from a “quiet kid” to a strong, outspoken advocate for her community.
“She’s passionate when she believes in something,” said Vince Harper, director of youth services at Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, which oversees some of her volunteer projects. “If she sees something that’s wrong, she’ll hit on it and say something.”
That commitment to action has not gone unnoticed in her hometown.
“Wherever I go, there she is behind a volunteer table,” said Judy Kennedy, leader of Santa Rosa’s Maple Avenue mural project. Ana and seven other teens dedicated their summer to completing the mural.
Soon after, Ana was introduced to Santa Rosa Mayor Susan Gorin. She shared with Gorin her career plans, and the mayor was so impressed that she added Ana to a list of officials attending a recent southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood summit.
“Right now, I feel like I’m at the age when I can do anything,” Ana said.
You can reach Staff Writer Brett Wilkison at 521-5295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
School: Roseland University Prep, junior
Family: Mother,Jaquelina; stepfather, Ignacio; sister, Maria; stepbrother Ulysses; half-sisters, Xitlalic and Jaquelina
Favorite food: Cheese enchiladas
Favorite novels: “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold, “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
Dream job: Mayor of Santa Rosa
Pets: Desperately wants a teacup-sized poodle
Hero: Her mother. “She’s worked really hard for my sister and me.”
Admires: “People who set goals for themselves and don’t give up”