Rafaela Lopes is a dual-enrollment student at MWCC, where she is both a high school senior and full-time second year student with plans to transfer to a four-year institution this fall. She has made such significant contributions to our community both locally and globally, that even at her young age, she truly stands out as an inspirational leader deserving of recognition. After moving to the U.S. from Brazil where she was close to homelessness, Rafaela was inspired to make a difference in the lives of others by creating a youth-run social venture that would help other young people experiencing or close to homelessness. Over the past three years, in addition to hosting regular birthday celebrations for homeless children in the community, she led a team of students in multiple Habitat for Humanity service days. The culmination of her dream—to make the impact of her venture, “GO Make a Difference,” global—was realized this winter when she organized a student trip to Haiti for a week of service at a nutrition and health center in a rural Haitian village. She was instrumental in raising thousands of dollars and collecting 14 suitcases packed with essential supplies in preparation for the trip.
I believe that helping others is my life’s mission. I try to lead by example, in the hope that one kindness will yield another, in turn generating a chain of kindness. I am actively involved with my high school’s Friends of Rachel’s Challenge club and MWCC’s ALANA club. With both organizations, I’ve been able to serve and support the community while sharing positivity and friendship. Though I’ll be transferring to a four-year institution in the fall to study dental medicine, I plan to continue to lead service and inspire my new fellow students to help me make a difference with volunteering, whether with homeless families or in regions of severe poverty. The service trip I led to Haiti with my social venture—“Go Make a Difference”—in February was powerful and eye-opening. I am already organizing another group trip to Haiti next winter and collecting donations, so more young people can experience the joy of giving back. With my chosen career in dentistry, I look forward to working with needy populations, and volunteering care for patients in developing countries like Haiti.