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NHI’s 2022 Person of the Year, Nick Lopez, Named CEO of the Latin American Educational Foundation

Posted: February 24, 2023 at 7:24 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Article written by Bianca Rawlings.

The National Hispanic Institute is excited to delve deeper into the rich history and promising future of our 2022 Person of the Year, Nick Lopez. Lopez has served as a larger-than-life leader for high school students within NHI, numerous other nonprofits, and was recently selected for a new position that is sure to increase his impact.

“Great outcomes tend to happen whenever the intent is shaping lives,” Ernesto Nieto wrote to Lopez in congratulations following Lopez’s most recent role appointment.

Lopez has just been named the President and CEO of one of the oldest Hispanic and Latino organizations in the nation, the Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF). Additionally, Lopez has held influential positions at the National Hispanic Institute, the University of Denver, and the University of Chicago where he has learned to lean into his leadership abilities and establish lifelong relationships with the students he serves.

Lopez embodies the leadership values of NHI, especially the principle of leading by serving and inspiring others. “Leadership is a tool and a craft that you always have to be investing in and honing. This belief is something that came to me from my time in NHI,” Lopez said.

Lopez also epitomizes the principle of seeking common ground and as a result of his desire to make a difference and personal experiences, he is easily able to connect with and mentor Latinx students.

“I share a lived experience with the 7,000+ students that LAEF has impacted through its scholarships and programs over the past seventy-three years. I am these kids. Their story is my story,” Lopez said.

“In many ways, this opportunity at LAEF represents the full-circle journey of my own leadership development, education, and professional growth,” Lopez said. Lopez completed the YLC (Great Debate), LDZ, and then the CWS program while in high school from 1994-1998.

“When I was fourteen years old, Ernesto Nieto changed the shape of my life. As the President and Founder of the National Hispanic Institute, Ernesto has impacted the lives of thousands of promising and gifted students across the US over the past forty years through Latino-centered leadership development and education programs,” Lopez said.

“As a lifelong mentor and trusted friend, it was his belief in my character and abilities to be a thoughtful community leader that has inspired and motivated me as I pursued philanthropy and non-profit service as my professional and personal calling,” Lopez said. “

“I cherish the privilege to influence and shape the lives of young people in Colorado through the mission of LAEF, just as Ernesto did for me,” Lopez said. 

Nick Lopez pictured with Ernesto Nieto during Nick’s time with NHI as a high school student.

When asked of his hopes for the future Lopez said he had much to look forward to. “I want to build my own legacy of shaping lives and impacting lives,” Lopez said. He also said he eagerly anticipated the day when his own children will be of age to attend NHI.

“Be patient, I am just at the halfway point in my life, but I feel like I have a lot of perspective. Always have a strong belief in yourself,” Lopez said when asked what advice he would give future NHI students.

Lopez expressed a great deal of gratitude for those who helped him throughout his life. He wanted to give a special thanks to the following people.

Julio Cotto

Dr. Joseph Villescas

Analco Gonzalez

Tino Villareal

Hector Lopez

Nicole Nieto

Chris Nieto

Marc Nieto

Eva-Dina Delgado

Jack Minogue 

Dr. Michael Gibbs

“I’ve learned that anything, whether it’s big or small, if you have gratitude you share in those experiences with those people that you have connections with, you call them,” Lopez said. Ernesto Nieto and Gloria de Leon, NHI’s founder and co-founder, were the first two people Lopez called to share the news of his appointment as President and CEO of LAEF.

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