Omaha Bryan High School senior Lesly Lopez loves to read. One of her favorite authors is Rainbow Rowell, the Omaha writer whose novel Eleanor & Park was recently optioned for a film adaptation. She also enjoys reading poetry.

More than that, Lopez is a writer. She began writing as part of the newspaper staff at the Bryan Orator, mostly reporting on sports. She won two awards from the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communication: first place in Feature Writing and second place in Sports Writing.

Then she found out she loved writing more than reporting. She began writing in different genres and experimenting with new techniques she’d learned from her English teachers.

“I’ve always had great English teachers,” Lopez said. “They always supported me through everything. I remember my freshman English teacher was the one that impacted me the most. She told me I was too good to be in regular English, so she made me go for Honors and AP.”

And that’s what Lopez did. She excelled through high school, earning a full-ride Board of Governors scholarship from Metropolitan Community College.

In the fall, Lopez will attend MCC on a full-ride to complete her gen-ed requirements before transferring to the University of Nebraska at Omaha to double major in Special Education and ESL.

“I was in ESL myself when I was younger,” Lopez said. “I know how they feel. I was in their shoes once and I want to help them go through it.”

During college, she wants to spend a year studying abroad, preferably teaching in Africa. She has a thirst for learning about different countries and cultures and is eager to broaden her view of the world.

The comprehensive academic and personal support she received from the AIM Upward Bound program has helped Lopez navigate the difficult world of high school. She cited AIM Upward Bound coordinators as key to her success.

“If I didn’t have them, I don’t know where I would be right now,” she said. “They were just always there to support me. They always had me with anything.”

Like many students, Lopez also had trouble figuring out the mind-bendingly complex world of scholarship applications. She said she appreciated AIM’s help through the process.

“I honestly don’t think I would have found those things on my own.”

Finally, Lopez expressed some general parting words of appreciation for Upward Bound in general. Upward Bound is a federal TRIO program that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds succeed in their precollege performance. AIM coordinates Upward Bound programs and provides free technology education through the Brain Exchange at five area high schools, including Omaha Bryan.

“Being in AIM Upward Bound has really been a positive thing in my life,” Lopez said. “I’ve struggled a lot in my life. I’m thankful that this program is here at Bryan. Some schools don’t have programs like these, and I’m glad I always have someone to talk to here.”