Outstanding Volunteer - Elisa López
Though Elisa was born in Chicago, her roots are deeply Mexican - both her parents grew up in Durango, Mexico. Elisa’s conversation is still infused with the strong, no-nonsense accent of her northern home, and she has several generations of family that still live in the city. She first saw Greenville when her father’s company moved him to Easley, SC in 1993, but it wasn’t until a decade later that she decided to make the Upstate home for herself and her daughter. Elisa recalls that, “Being Hispanic in Upstate, SC has allowed me to get a glimpse of what my parents may have experienced in Chicago when they were young adults in the 70’s and 80’s. I felt like I went back in time when I moved here. I had to prove myself and my abilities. I had to show people that my diversity was an asset and not a roadblock. Another thing we experienced when we moved to Upstate SC was the lack of authentic food items, cultural events, resources, music, etc. We have come a long way in the past 17-24 years that I have been here.” Elisa works in Business Development for a local credit union, where she mentors customers to improve their financial health. She provides workshops, free resources, and specialized products to empower everyone to make informed financial decisions. To hear Elisa’s passion for this area of work and community outreach, all you have to do is ask: “Financial literacy is so very important,” she insists. “There is a great need of financial education in our Hispanic community. Banking, savings, investments and credit building are things that all individuals need to understand to set themselves up for success and reaching dreams, like higher education, home ownership and retirement. “ Elisa discovered Hispanic Alliance when she met Sara Montero-Buria, who built HA’s community engagement before she became it’s Marketing Director. Sara invited her to a Financial Stability Team meeting, and Elisa’s involvement has blossomed every since. She is a backbone member of the Financial Stability Team, volunteer-teaching many classes in Financial Literacy. Her credit union work helps our community understand this type of financial institution, which is not common in the Latin American world. This fall she will be integral to the team’s first class in Spanish for those starting a business. Interestingly, Elisa’s most fulfilling volunteering experience was with the Education Team at their 2017 College Fair! “I had a heart to heart conversation with a concerned parent of a high school senior who had dreams of going to Clemson to become an Architect. She attended the financial wellness workshop that I delivered, she opened up to me after the workshop.” The mother expressed deep regret that she had not been able to save enough money for her son’s education, and was worried that, because of her, he would not be able to follow his dream. Elisa was able to convince her otherwise, and made sure that she didn’t miss the scholarship workshop with her sons. Meanwhile, she spoke to Julio Hernandez (Senior Associate Director for Hispanic Outreach at Clemson) and was able to connect mother and son with him before they left the fair. Elisa’s positive attitude in the face of challenges and her knowledge of financial resources allows her to create impact in every area where HA serves. “I was so happy that they attended the fair and were open to the resources and people available.” Elisa is a perfect example of an American-born Latina carrying the torch of Hispanic Heritage. “My Hispanic Heritage is me. It tells me where I come from, what my family went through to help me be where I am today, and what I teach my children so that they can continue passing it on for generations to come. I believe that our language is a major piece of our heritage, therefore I am very proud to say that I am bilingual and it is important to me that my children grasp our language as well.” As a bilingual volunteer and financial advisor, Elisa is able to be an ambassador to our young and growing immigrant community. The effort she puts into her work, and the time she takes to inspire others through simple conversations are proof that she understands the value and potential contributions of Upstate Hispanics. “The Hispanic community is a big contributor to the Greenville community. We work, attend school, worship, consume, and raise our children in this community. We bring value, culture, family and good work ethics to the community we live and serve in.” And the same can be said for Elisa Lopez, herself.