Stephanie Lopez Gilmore, a second-generation Mexican American, grew up in a family that placed a high value on education. Later in life, as she worked in underserved communities, it was discouraging to witness the lack of resources available to some students. 

Lopez Gilmore is now the president of MANA de Metro Detroit, an organization whose mission is to empower Latinas and create a better quality of life for all Latinos through education, leadership development and advocacy. She is also a government and community relations associate for Compass Strategies and works with The Education Trust-Midwest to support community engagement efforts, particularly with ETM’s partnership with the Michigan Partnership for Equity and Opportunity coalition. 

Lopez Gilmore has worked with discouraged students who have wanted to pursue careers but did not have the financial means to do so or did not have a mentor to walk them through the process.  

“It was a shock to me to talk to students who did not have the funding in their school districts to provide them with a good education experience and wrap-around services to ensure their success,” she said.  

Her first-hand experience working directly with these students fuels her passion today to be an advocate, particularly for students from underserved communities. 

“When I joined MANA as a program coordinator for their Hermanita program, I was able to work directly with young women and mentor them so they could achieve their higher education goals. Now as the president, I am happy to say that some of the young women I mentored remained with the organization and are giving back by being on the scholarship committee, the same committee that awarded them with scholarships,” Lopez Gilmore said. 

As a mother of two young children, Lopez Gilmore says she wants her children to have a great education that will prepare them for their futures. She hopes they will experience robust curricular offerings and that their schools provide the best education for all students, including through after-school programs, tutoring, bilingual education, and diversity in teachers and mentors. 

“I hope that every child gets these same opportunities and that it is not based on family income,” Lopez Gilmore said. “Right now, unfortunately, having the combination of diversity and the best education sometimes do not go hand in hand. I hope that is not the case in the next few years as my boys enter the public school system.” 

Lopez Gilmore encourages advocates to continue to talk to educators, students and parents and communities that are the most underserved. She says they are in the trenches doing the hard work and that listening gives them a voice and empowers them to take action and advocate on behalf of their families and community.

We need support from those that are impacted. This is a great way to get them involved, so they know that their voice matters and understand the ongoing work we are doing on their behalf.”