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Maria “Lupita” Guadalupe Alvarez - Alumni Spotlight

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Maria “Lupita” Guadalupe Alvarez enjoys helping others and has her sights set on becoming an optometrist.

After graduating from Starmount High School in 2018, the Boonville resident enrolled in business classes and didn’t enjoy the class material. She then decided to major in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) degree. She enrolled in the Associate in Science degree program at Surry Community College to prepare to transfer to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree.

Lupita spent time shadowing her optometrist Dr. Brian Jay at the Yadkin Vision Center, which is when she decided to study to be an optometrist.

“I loved it,” she said. “I like helping other people.”

She began classes at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte this fall with 65 college credits. She completed an Associate in Science degree in December 2020 and an Associate in General Education in May 2021 from Surry Community College.

“I have saved a lot of money starting my bachelor’s degree at Surry Community College,” she said. “Some ask why community college? I saw my parents struggle, and that's why I started here. There’s nothing wrong with starting at a community college.”

She was usually one of a few female students in the STEM classes, but she said that didn’t bother her.

“I fit in well with the guys. I love using my head and being challenged in class,” she said. “I was the only girl in my Physics class. I sometimes missed having a female counterpart, but I enjoyed getting to know other people. I also felt smart being in class with all the students who were planning to become engineers.”

While at UNC-Charlotte, Lupita plans to earn a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry. She considered a career in chemical engineering but thought she would miss working directly with people in a caregiving role.

As a first-generation college student, she has learned the college process on her own, and now she enjoys helping others.

“I took all the classes I could at Surry and wish I could have stayed at Surry, but I had to move to further my education," she said.

Lupita was born in Mount Airy and moved to Yadkin County with her parents when she was five. She said the move to Charlotte sounded intimidating, but it was a step she was ready to embrace as a 21-year-old.

After she completes studies at UNC-Charlotte, Lupita hopes to go to optometry school in Florida at Nova Southeastern University. Optometry school is a four-year commitment.

“That means it will take eight years total before I start work in a practice,” she said. “That’s a lot of studying, tears shed, rough nights, and headaches, but it will all be worth it in the end. I do this all to see my parents proud. It’s not about the money. I want to enjoy my job and help people.”

A mother is a daughter’s best friend, which is a statement that is true in the Alvarez family. Her parents Maria Dolores Alvarez and Juan Alvarez are both from a small area called Guanajuato in Mexico, where they both met.

“My mom is my best friend,” she said. “I’ll never forget her face when I told her I was accepted into UNC-Charlotte.”

Lupita encourages other females who want to pursue STEM majors.

“You can do anything a guy can do. If you want to do something, go for it. Don’t hold back,” she said.

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