“Everyone, when they meet me, thinks I’m a graduate student or I’m finishing my PhD,” Mancillas Lopez said. “My friends always say I act so mature. People always think I’m a lot older than what I actually am.”
The maturity level she exudes and the work ethic she displays performing multiple duties as a full-time employee in the Office of the President at the University of San Diego is a given. That she’s done it for three years while also taking a full-time load of classes “mostly at night for the last two years” says something about her time management skills.
Mancillas Lopez’s desire to excel is a reflection of the responsibilities she’s had during her upbringing. She is a native of Tijuana, Mexico, from where her family legally immigrated to the United States when she was 6. Financial woes pushed her and two brothers to assist their mother, Rosa, with a daily newspaper delivery route. Mancillas Lopez helped on weekends at age 10, but soon helped her mother before school, a routine that continues today, meaning her workday begins at 2:30 a.m.
An honors student since junior high, Mancillas Lopez has worked hard for all she’s achieved.
Her mother experienced tremendous pain when Mancillas Lopez was a senior in high school to the point that she couldn’t walk. Without the benefit of health insurance, the pain wasn’t easily diagnosed. It took the family a year to get a proper diagnosis. “We saw more than 20 doctors, traveling from Los Angeles, down to Ensenada, Baja and no one could diagnose what was wrong,” Mancillas Lopez said. “Finally, we were recommended to a specialist and it turned out to be one of the most common ailments, rheumatoid arthritis.”
The expensive treatment put Rosy in a position where she worked in the Office of the Registrar her freshman year at USD. She also was a teacher’s aide for the foreign language department at Mount Miguel High. Her paychecks were split paying for school and her mother’s medical costs. Rosa feels better now, but she still has treatments.
Mancillas Lopez’s father, Porfirio, suffered a stroke almost two years ago and that’s been another tremendous strain on the family’s finances. Her father is permanently disabled, can’t work and there’s still a home mortgage to pay. Mancillas Lopez’s paycheck, as well as those of her brothers, provides support to keep the family on track.
“More than anything, it has taught me the value of hard work and being detached from material things,” Mancillas Lopez said. “I don’t have that longing to become rich, have money or stop working at some point in my life. My major longing is to help others.”
Mancillas Lopez, who arrived at USD on a Trustee Scholarship and has earned other financial help through an Alumni Scholarship, Mortar Board and the League of United American Citizens Scholarship, is beginning to focus on the next chapter of her career. She was recently accepted into the USD School of Law’s evening program starting in the fall. She will concentrate on international law, human rights and immigration law.
“When I was younger, I always wanted to study law,” she said. “Being an immigrant, our family went through a lot of lawyers to help us get the legalization papers and figure it out. The lawyer who ended up helping us, when I saw how amazing he was, made me want to become a lawyer.”
She has been inspired during her undergraduate years at USD, too.”After having the entire USD experience, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve loved my four years here academically, professionally and with my outside school activities. USD has the most amazing and humanitarian professors. They will always work with you if they know you’re going through extraneous situations. They try to help you in every way possible.”
And, in turn, Mancillas Lopez’s personality, work ethic and leadership skills have earned her plenty of admirers throughout the campus community.
“She has the drive to do everything. She’s a very good worker. She’s good at research, very detail oriented,” said Elaine Atencio, special assistant to the president and administrations manager. “We just love her. There’s nothing you can’t love about this girl.”
— Ryan T. Blystone