Larissa Lopez puts the past aside to push towards a bright future

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L. Lopez

Everyone had to miss a year of school due to the pandemic, but for Larissa Lopez, her struggle was far more challenging.

For Larissa Lopez doing well in school is just what’s expected. She has a lunch pail approach to school—she shows up, clocks in, does her job, and does it to the best of her ability.

“I’m proud of myself for trying, no matter what,” she says.

Trying hard means lots of catching up. And catching up is still a challenge because, like all of her junior classmates, she missed being on campus for her sophomore year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike most of her classmates, she also missed her Freshman year.

Losing all that time has been devastating for the excitable student. She missed all the sports she loves and the fun school activities that she would have liked to have been a part of during her freshman and sophomore years.

For most students, this might earn a passive shrug. After all, Larissa has two more years of school left. However, for her, getting to this place in her life wasn’t easy and she doesn’t take any of it for granted.

In eighth grade at Terrace Hills Middle School, Larissa made a decision that radically altered her life for the next couple years.

Since elementary school, she was constantly bullied by a group of kids. She fought off and on, encouraged to stand up for herself. However, after one particularly bad morning, she retaliated and that choice had her facing a ton of consequences.

Larissa’s best friend is Nos, her beautiful bearded dragon.

The biggest of those consequences was getting expelled from Colton Joint Unified School District and being required to attend Visions, a community day school run by the county of San Bernardino.

At Visions, Larissa got herself back on track. “We cut through the B.S.,” her teacher, Dvonne Pitruzzello, shared. “Larissa had a tendency not to stay in her lane and bring attention to herself.”

Larissa listened to what her teachers were telling her, and success soon followed. “She decided she wanted something different,” Pitruzzello continued. “She took what we tried to teach her and applied it to her life, and she is successful. She decided to do it and she did it.”

In addition to her attending Visions, Larissa was also required to enroll in anger management classes, truancy classes, counseling, and participate in CART, Colton PD’s At-Risk Teen academy. CART is an optional intervention for families that focuses on providing students with discipline training, mentoring, career development, and guidance.

After attending Visions for a semester, Larissa returned to public school. That lasted a month and a half before the pandemic gripped the world and placed every Colton student into virtual learning.

For Larissa, this was unfair. She worked so hard to get back to a normal life, only to have it taken away from her, this time because of things outside of her control.

The result was a lost year, going to school at home, and struggling to find the motivation to work and perform. Depression set in, and she had a hard time recapturing the drive that brought her back after expulsion.

With the reopening of the school, Larissa can hardly contain her excitement. “I’m very excited for the rest of my junior year,” she said. “Even though it’s bumpy, I’m getting through.”

She took what we tried to teach her and applied it to her life, and she is successful. She decided to do it and she did it.”

— Ms. Dvonne Pitruzzello, Visions

Because of her excitement, Larissa may actually be overdoing it. Since the start of the year, she has been involved with the volleyball team as a team manager, the cheer team, Powderpuff football, and has taken a leadership role with the “Crimson & Gold” yearbook. She is currently trying to make the softball team.

That’s just Larissa Lopez, though. She doesn’t know how to quit. She shows up, clocks in, does the job, and does it to the best of her ability.