Typically, Lupe is reserved and collected, very guarded with her personal life. But we also know a side of her that is fun, witty and learning to let her guard down. I made her uncomfortable when I gave her some guidelines for answering the questions below. Knowing Lupe and that she is always striving to put her most polished foot forward, I told her I would ask a question and that she had sixty seconds to answer the question, to give me the first thing that popped into her head and just be in the moment. During the interview, she laughed a lot, cried and in the end gave some very heartfelt and sincere answers to the questions below.
Lupe: She told me that I should apply to be on the student council president for elementary school. She told me the steps of how to do it. The family I was with, at the time, made ribbons and bows “Vote For Lupe” and I won.
JBW: Tell me about some of your friends.
Lupe: My friends are inspiring, driven, funny….they like to get together and talk, not about work. We laugh so much and I love it. We can all sit in a room and watch a movie, cook dinner together and have the best time just doing nothing.
JBW: Who are some of your heroes?
Lupe: My fathers, for seeing something in me I don’t, but I am trying to. For being an example of a family unit. My siblings, who look up to me and I look up to them and they are there for me when things aren’t good, when I am struggling with something. To have people there when you are not always on, I treasure that. I don’t have to be happy and perfect all the time and they accept. Without their examples, I wouldn’t have, in my mind, people I could aspire to become, whether that be in their profession, as parents, as partners or as friends.
Lupe: That is a good question. Embracing people as they are, first, and then helping them see themselves as I see them because I make them comfortable and open to sharing their truth. I don’t think it is something that I knew I had until I had met somebody that has asked me for advice or says to me “do you remember 5 years ago when I met you and you helped me.” I want young people to know about their greatness and I want them to see it.
JBW: What did you do with your first paycheck?
Lupe: You know what, I think that is when I first started reading Glamour magazine. I was a senior in high school and I went to try and put one of those outfits together that was in the magazine. I didn’t have sisters around to help me.
JBW: Describe your first job.
Lupe: Well I considered the volunteering I did when I was fourteen-years-old a job, a candy stripper at the hospital. I was the 6a.m. coffee cart person, I was the first person the senior citizens saw in the morning when they woke up. They were all there because they were sick so I always went in with a smile and I didn’t leave until they were smiling too.
JBW: What was your favorite job and why?
Lupe: The work with the Young Adult Training and Technical Assistance Network because I was able to help teach young adults from foster care some leadership skills that they could utilize not only in their foster care work, but also was transferable to their personal and professional life.
JBW: When have you been most satisfied in your life?
Lupe: (Laughs) I think it was father’s day of this past year when I was asked to be adopted. I went home and called Valerie (bio-sister) and what she said to me was like a broken puzzle had come together. I don’t know what to call that day, I didn’t know there was a void until someone else found it and filled it.
JBW: Who is your role model, and why?
Lupe: I think it is the adults in my life who made me pause and celebrate milestones I had accomplished. They push me to work harder for my goals and keep pushing me to dream bigger and plan further without paying attention to my fears…(Laughs) or insecurities.
JBW: What things do you not like to do?
Lupe: Well, what do I not like to do? I don’t like to answer questions in sixty seconds, I don’t like to always put clothes away right after they are dried. For some reason I don’t like to put my shoes away right when I come into the house (laughing) and I don’t like to wake up to an alarm clock. I don’t like to read about hate. I don’t like to hear about people who get lost in the struggles or memories of their past.
JBW: Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
Lupe: Hmm…I think demystifying people’s conceptions of what older people from foster care are able to accomplish. Even though I am known as being agreeable and perky, I can speak up and say “you are missing a crucial aspect of this work.” I honestly don’t know where that courage comes from.
JBW: What is your opinion of the state of affairs of Child Welfare today?
Lupe: Somewhere I read a statement that said “child welfare saves lives but also hurts lives.” I agree with that statement, but somewhere, in the last ten years, there has been improvement because of partnerships between child welfare professionals and young people working together. I think that collaboration has been instrumental in the legislation that has passed in the last few years promoting “normalized” activities for young people being raised in the construct of a system being their families. I think the only way it will get better, is if young people and foster families are at the table when decisions are being made for ways to improve the system.
JBW: Tell me about some of your favorite songs (also books, movies and television shows).
Lupe: Because I’m Happy by Pharrell Williams it makes me do a mental check and dance wherever I am….basically anything with a hip hop beat will keep me going at the gym. It’s been my saving grace when I get stuck in my head…cardio is my #MentalHealth…acoustic soul and country music is where I get lost in the narrative and get recharged…I love music so this is really hard.
The last book I read was Blue Moon by Johnny Bryan Ward and I read it to support my dad and it scared the heebbie jeebies out of me. (not prompted at all)
One of my favorite movies is The Secret Life of Bees with Queen Latifah….it’s the last movie I watched with Valerie and it’s about sisterhood. But my favorite genre movie, and I think people would be surprised by this, is mafia movies. I love mafia movies.
I am really liking CSI Cyber, but I like social media a lot, so it kind of freaks me out.
JBW: Tell me about some of the places where you've been happiest.
Lupe: When I am in a room surrounded by people who accept me unconditionally and who have been in my life for the last ten years…because that is the longest (outside of my bio-sister) that people have been in my life. I think what I love the most is that they can bring up a memory, whether happy or sad, and they can tease me about it. I just think it is so fun to have ‘inside jokes’ with people.
JBW: What haven't we talked about that you'd like to discuss in the time we have left?
Lupe: Two things. One, creating roots in a place is something I was always scared of because I was never in a place for longer than a few years because of foster care. There is a sense of safety now, when you know where home base is.
Second, for the longest time, I just had new people that came in my life, but no one stayed, but in last ten years people have stayed. Now I am making new connections, building lasting relationships and I have a new puppy, Sparkie #IWillSendYouAPicture.
JBW: If we're sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it's been for you since the Champion of Change event, what did you achieve?
Lupe: Well, to live up to what the honoree saw in me. To stay true to the good that I see in child welfare and to work towards making it better in my own small way I play in it. To challenge myself to move further in my career and education. I think in order to continue to give back, you also have to give to yourself.
JBW: So, Lupe, what's your story?
Lupe: I have no clue. I think it’s bigger than me. It’s different now that I have a family. I think I believed in the impossible for so many years, I could have chosen an easier route, and sadly…live up to those expectations that young people have of children in foster care, but I just never thought that a person’s life was meant to be filled with only hurt…even in my loneliest and saddest years I knew there was more. People said you can’t do this or no one believes you can do that…someone taught me to dream and I still believe in that.
JBW: Tell me how you got there?
Lupe: By everything being taken away from me and holding onto, like, that glimpse of love or hope. To me, it was the love of my sister and a dream to graduate in the class of 2000, people thought the world was going to end (Laughs), but little did we know that in a few years Facebook would be around. In a time when I had nothing, I had a memory of something great and I just wouldn't give up until I got back to that.
JBW: What next?
Lupe: Family…hopefully love…and going after a master’s degree and continuing to choose happiness above it all.
For more information, please read the article in The Oklahoman by clicking the following link http://newsok.com/fostering-change/article/5419837