KAT’S STORY: Journey of HOPE: Empowering Spanish-Speaking Families at The Arc
In January 2019, a chance encounter at a college career fair set the stage for an amazing journey. Katherine Lopez (right), known affectionately as Kat, crossed paths with Miss Melanee Clark, who would later become her supervisor at The Arc of Prince George’s County.
Kat’s passion and dedication to the work being done are evident as she sheds light on her journey to The Arc. “Yes, my name is Katherine Lopez,” she says with a warm smile, “and I am the bilingual program administrator here at The Arc.”
Kat’s story is one of pure determination and ambition. She started as a volunteer and, over time, became increasingly involved with The Arc’s mission. It was Miss Clark who recognized Kat’s talents and potential, eventually offering her an independent contractor position. As Kat embarked on her last semester of college, an internship at The Arc quickly progressed into a full-time position which is how her professional journey with The Arc began.
Kat’s El Salvadorian roots run deep, connecting her to the work she does today. When asked about the influence of her background and culture, she beams with pride. “I feel like my story really relates to the work that I do,” she explains. Her role involves supporting Spanish-speaking families, and her own background and cultural understanding have been invaluable in bridging gaps and addressing the unique challenges these families face.
However, Kat’s efforts extend beyond her role as a bilingual program administrator. She is at the forefront of The Arc’s HOPE initiative, which stands for “Hispanic Outreach Through Positive Engagement.” With HOPE, Kat and her team aim to provide equity to Spanish-speaking families with loved ones with disabilities. The goal is to connect families to the community, screening them through the Benefits Enrollment Center, educating them about available services, and empowering them to advocate for their loved ones.
In a heartwarming success story of HOPE, Kat shares about a family who she has been assisting for about two years. They first encountered The Arc through the Ready@21 program, a pre-employment training program funded by Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS). The family faced numerous barriers, including language and limited tech skills. Kat’s support and the resources provided by HOPE made all the difference. The family received assistance, connected with essential services, and gradually overcame their challenges.
Kat is grateful for the opportunity to make a difference at The Arc. Her story is a testament to the power of dedication, cultural understanding, and the transformative impact of initiatives like HOPE.