Gabriel Lopez: Our Urban Hero

Recently, Breakthrough New York student Gabriel Lopez delivered a speech at the Catalog for Giving Gala. Here are his remarks.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Thank you to Breakthrough New York and the Catalog for Giving for inviting me here tonight. There have been so many people by my side from the beginning and they have helped me more times than I can remember; it truly feels wonderful to be able to stand here, in front of you, and be able to share how far I’ve come.


My name is Gabriel Lopez and I live in the Lower East Side in Manhattan. I come from a Hispanic family, my mother moving here from the Dominican Republic and my father from Ecuador.


I am a senior at Choate Rosemary Hall, a prep school in Connecticut that has pushed me to my limits but that I can happily call my second home. I am captain of a basketball team, prefect in a sophomore dorm, and a leader in several cultural clubs. I have travelled to Paris for a term abroad and to Ecuador for a community service project. I’ve been offered so many opportunities and I’ve had all these experiences because of the marvelous program that is Breakthrough, one of the organizations that is supported by the Catalog for Giving.


Without Breakthrough, I don’t know where I would be today.  I would’ve been constantly tempted by my peers to drink or take drugs, and I wouldn’t have been fulfilling my potential at all. Without Breakthrough, I would probably be wasting my life right now.

I come from a family that, unfortunately, does not know much about the educational system in the United States. As I approach the deadline for college applications, I’ve realized that by myself, I wouldn’t even know where to start. My mother and father, as loving as they are, couldn’t have helped me because they’ve never gone through the process.  But, luckily for me, Breakthrough is here for me.


I couldn’t have imagined that my life would be so changed because of a decision I made in 6th grade when I applied to Breakthrough. They’ve given me SAT prep, homework help, free summer classes, interviewing tips and tricks, paid internships, an amazing high school, and so much more. Most importantly, however, they’ve been there for me even when I didn’t know I needed them.


I remember the day I applied to Choate. It was a Sunday and I had just gotten out of church with my mother when Breakthrough called me. One of the directors had just read that there was an amazing scholarship available to Choate but the deadline was that same day. She asked if I would be interested in applying and of course I told her I was. I got to the Breakthrough office at 1 pm that day and I did not leave until 8 or 9. Of course, thinking back on it now, those were the best 8 hours of my life as it ended in my enrollment at Choate. Two of the staff members helped edit my application for 8 hours with me that day.  That decision to go the extra mile and to always try to help kids changed my life and I will never forget that.  And this is a common story of hundreds of other Breakthrough kids whose lives are changed by this wonderful program.

I owe so much of my life today to Breakthrough and I wish I knew a way that could express all the gratitude I have. Thanks to the support of Breakthrough, I am on the path to a great college and career.  I intend to major in engineering or computer science and am applying to Columbia, Yale, M.I.T., and Cornell. I am ready to take on the college process and I can’t wait until the day that I can declare the college that I will be graduating in 2018.  I’ve come very far thanks to Breakthrough but I don’t plan on stopping any time soon. One day, I will be in a position to give back to Breakthrough and other kids like me who deserve a chance to be successful.


The best I can do now is give them a big smile and say thank you for giving me great opportunities.  And thank you for supporting the Catalog for Giving so that they can support programs like Breakthrough.  Your support makes a difference.