When it comes to serving others, she never turned away

Laura Guerra-Lopez has had an insatiable curiosity — and a drive to help others — since she was a young girl. Her fervor to serve didn’t slow down at Yale.
Laura Guerra-Lopez

Laura Guerra-Lopez (Photo by David Liebowitz)

Growing up in Miami, Laura Guerra-Lopez remembers peppering her parents with questions about their native Venezuela. She was inquisitive by nature and their only child, so they welcomed her curiosity about the political and economic chaos gripping the once-democratic nation from which they came to the United States shortly before her birth.

Looking back, Guerra-Lopez is grateful for the frank, but age-appropriate way her parents included her in those dinnertime conversations.

They would have real conversations,” she said. “They would tell me about what was going on, but they introduced things in a way that was not so devastating that I turned away from it.”

Those interactions with her parents, and their closeness as a family in a new country where they had no other relatives, ignited her passion for social justice and serving the immigrant community, Guerra-Lopez says.

Laura Guerra-Lopez with friends next to a Venezuelan flag
At Yale, Guerra-Lopez served as vice president for Club Venezuela.

At Yale, Guerra-Lopez, who is a member of Pierson College,  majored in political science with a pre-law track, served as a project leader for the Undergraduate Legal Aid Association, Special Juvenile Immigration Status Project (SJISP), as vice president for Club Venezuela, and, during her senior year, as a Dwight Hall Urban Fellow, doing immigrant legal services in partnership with the New Haven Legal Aid Association.

Her involvement in service-minded activities started well before she arrived in New Haven as a transfer student in 2022. In sixth grade, as crisis worsened in Venezuela, she engaged with her parents in what she calls “remote activism,” supporting those opposing the country’s autocratic leaders. In high school, she founded a non-profit called Corazon Contento, Happy Heart Foundation, through which she conducted a range of humanitarian projects to help suffering Venezuelans, such as holiday toy drives, and PPE drives during the pandemic.

It was also in high school that she founded the First-Generation College Assistance Program, an initiative aimed at empowering first-generation students like herself in their journey toward higher education. As a student at The Honors College at Miami Dade College, she started her own service club, the Pre-Law Society, which helped students find internships and scholarships.

She hadn’t initially planned on attending Miami Dade College, but the Honors College offered an attractive option after the pandemic hit just before her high school graduation. It turned out to be a really good decision, she said, and provided the mentorship and structured program that prepared her well for her transition to Yale.

Her nonprofit, Corazon Contento, Happy Heart Foundation, for which she received a Silver Knight Award nomination from the Miami Herald, inspired her thesis work at Yale; for the project she examined NGOs and autocratic regimes in Venezuela and elsewhere. It also taught her the importance of persistence and doing things that truly make you happy.

Laura Guerra-Lopez with friends at the Yale Bowl
Guerra-Lopez with friends at the Yale Bowl.

I’ve learned that being true to myself is very important,” Guerra-Lopez said. “It’s kind of a cliché that we can accomplish anything if we dream big, but we can.”

Guerra-Lopez credits her parents for her remarkable drive and a few teachers she’s had along the way.

Seeing how my parents always kept going, kept me going,” she says. “My parents were always there to support me but never dragged me across the finish line. That helped me develop a love for school. There were also teachers who believed in me and helped me express my inquisitive personality. My superpower is handling regret. I don’t get bogged down. I keep pushing.”

Attending law school is definitely in her future, Guerra-Lopez says, but she has yet to decide on a specialty. She once envisioned becoming a judge and retiring as a Supreme Court justice, but her experience at Yale has exposed her to a multitude of other legal career options, she says. 

Guerra-Lopez will take a year off while she figures out which direction she’ll pursue, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be kicking back. Soon after graduating, she’ll start a summer internship with Defiende Venezuela, a Venezuela-based NGO that advocates for human rights and represents victims internationally.

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