Maria J. Lopez, Board Member

Maria Justina Lopez is the youngest of three daughters raised by a single mother. Her grandparents immigrated to New York City in the Mid 1950’s from Puerto Rico. Her mother taught her the value of literacy and resiliency from young. At the age of three Maria got her first library card by the age of four her mother attended college part time with Maria and her sisters tagging along in the classroom with late nights and weekends at the library. Witnessing her mother’s hard work and dedication she knew nothing would stop her from pursuing her own education.

Maria was the first of her siblings to graduate from college with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology from the College of Art and Sciences at Syracuse University. While in college Maria served as a Leadership Intern (LI) at the MaryAnn Shaw Center for Public and Community Service. As an LI she assisted with organizing and recruiting volunteers for large scale service projects, individual service and civic engagement opportunity’s in the Syracuse City and general administrative needs around the office. It was during her time as an LI, that the staff and office partners mentored and helped cultivate her interest in higher education providing the opportunity to learn about institutional structure and working with students. A first generation, underrepresented college student herself, she became interested in learning why students like her were successful when the odds were stacked against them. As a result, she became a Ronald E. McNair Scholar where she pursed research focusing on the experience of successful Latino students attending a predominately white intuition. These experiences and support she received solidified her decision to peruse higher education in graduate school. She was also a McNair Fellowship Recipient.
Maria became the first in her family to achieve a Graduate degree with a Master’s of Science in Higher Education Administration from Syracuse University’s School of Education. As a graduate student, Maria learned best practices to help students develop and succeed. During an internship at SUNY Upstate College of Medicine Maria had the privilege of becoming a voting member of the admissions committee. She also continued developing skills in large scale event planning as a Graduate Intern for SummerStart, Syracuse University’s summer Bridge program, and the Office of Student Centers and Programming Services working specifically with events and technical services. The knowledge and experience she gained was crucial to what would be her future career.
Maria is currently an Academic Counselor for Student Support Services (SSS), a TRiO program, at Syracuse University. In this position, she prepares first generation and low income students for success through goal setting, curriculum planning and tracking, and academic support resources such as tutoring, campus community engagement, financial literacy and career planning. Maria continues to pay forward what was given to her as a member of SU’s University Conduct/Appeals Board, SU’s Career Network and has advised two sororities and one fraternity.  Maria also serves as an Executive Board member with the Image Initiative.
Maria’s personal philosophy can be summed up in one quote:
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” –Helen Keller 

Advisory Board Members

  • Natalie Byrdsong
  • Krystal Cooper
  • JaSheika James
  • Tasha Jones
  • Nodesia Hernandez
  • Katherine Hills
  • Chariesse Turner
  • Tania Williams

Emeritus Board Members

  • Cheryl Dixon-Hills
  • Eva Williams

Ambassador Board Members

  • Amber Green, Image Initiative Alum
  • SaQuota Reaves, Image Initiative Alum
  • Kenneisha Reaves, Image Initiative Alum
  • Chelsea Willis, Image Initiative Alum

Connect with Image Initiative, Inc. Image Initiative, Inc. on Twitter Image Initiative, Inc. on Facebook Image Initiative, Inc. on Flickr Image Initiative, Inc. on Youtube

* Before you jump online, be sure to check out our Internet Code of Conduct