Darlene Lopez is a modern-day pied piper. In her seven years at The Valley, over 1,000 students have participated in afterschool programs, services and activities offered under her leadership. Ms. Lopez started her career at The Valley as a part-time tutor for their Summer Education Program and as result of her hard work, commitment, and expertise, she has become the Project Director at Louis D. Brandeis High School. Ms. Lopez’s programs provide a beam of light for a school that continues to suffer from poor attendance, poor academic performance, a high drop out rate, violence and racial unrest. In fact, as a testament to her selflessness and accomplishments, the students at Brandeis voted The Valley as “Teacher of the Year” in 2003. Her extensive list of accomplishments demonstrates her unmatched ability to help her students realize that they are capable of achieving their dreams.
Serving over 225 students each day between the hours of 3pm and 9pm, The Valley’s program at Brandeis provides young people with a myriad of activities – ranging from academic support offerings (tutoring and college prep programs), to immigration services, Latin ballroom dance lessons, leadership development programs, web design classes, programs for pregnant and parenting teens, and employment services. During her tenure at The Valley, Ms. Lopez has seen over 72% of her cohort graduate, compared to the 49% graduation rate of Brandeis. She continues to work hard to keep the dream of college alive for her current students – getting fee waivers for the SAT, financial aid applications for college, extra tutors in preparing for the Regents exams, parent-teacher-student conferences and seminars, and even buses for college visits. In addition, Ms. Lopez has created strategic alliances with Mercy College, Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), and the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University to get young people into the 24-credit G.E.D. program, admissions fee waivers, and exclusive access to a college-level Sociology course.
Parents, community residents, district leaders, school administrators, security personnel, teachers, clerks, and maintenance workers – everyone comes to Darlene for her advice, wisdom, leadership and ideas for youth engagement and development. A phenomenally resourceful individual, Ms. Lopez is undaunted by funding cuts or poor cash flow. She always manages incentive trips, ceremonies and recognition events, equipment, supplies, materials, and other opportunities for young people in her program. When students expressed an interest in conducting research via the Internet, Darlene took the lead for The Valley in securing a grant for Pentium IV laptops for the Brandeis site.
Born and raised in Washington Heights, Ms. Lopez is a native of New York City. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University and is currently credits away from receiving her Masters in Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature from Columbia University.