Milanca & Xavier Lopez

Milanca & Javier Lopez

The Bay Area has been awash in activities over the past couple of weeks -UC Berkeley’s graduation, Bay to Breakers, Carnival, and the LASA Conference, to name a few. Yet, in the quiet of the early morning a tragedy occurred, leaving many of us consumed with grief. UC Berkeley student Milanca Lopez, only 23, died following graduation celebrations, her son, Xavier hospitalized in critical condition. The eternal optimists among us tried to focus on the miracle that needed to happen, allowing Xavier to awaken from his coma, bones knitted and all pain gone. That miracle never happened and Xavier passed away a week later, joining his mother.
ISLA doesn’t usually include obituaries in its web-site, however Milanca’s short life was rich in intensity and accomplishment –an inspiration to all, but especially to those men and women currently struggling through high-school or college with young children, wondering if continuing their education is just too hard. As a single mother of two who once lived in UCSC’s family student housing, I am more than familiar with this particular reality. Problems abound –everything from not enough time to focus on your work, to too little time with the children, money issues, and even health problems created by stress and neglect. Thus, when you come across a person like Milanca who managed to thrive despite the challenges and even enjoy the journey, you have stumbled upon a success story worth sharing.
Milanca arrived at a crossroads at age 16 –excelling in high school, pregnant and excited about being a mother. She convinced her mom that she could handle the situation and asked for her support. Together they forged ahead, enabling Milanca to continue her studies, graduate with excellent grades and enter UC Berkeley. She and Xavier moved to UC’s family student housing in Albany.  Xavier attended a local bilingual after-school program in Berkeley, which is where my family met him. Although only six, he was an UNO champion, and a joy to be around.
The night she died, Milanca was celebrating her accomplishments –graduating with a double major from UC Berkeley, surrounded by a family proud of her achievements. Her next stop was UCLA, where she had been accepted to graduate school. It had been a tough road, but she had made the journey with enthusiasm, accompanied by the light of her life –little Xavier. While a student at UCB, Milanca engaged in activism, fighting to retain and increase support for students with children.
I am sure Milanca never imagined her story would become an inspiration for the many students with children, encouraged by the poignancy of her life. She worked hard to get an education and thrived in the process. Her son fueled her dedication and brought happiness to every day. Her legacy? A deep appreciation for education, amazing strength and conviction when facing challenges, and the ability to fully enjoy being a parent.

We invite you to learn more about Milanca at



This web site is hosted by the Institute for Global Communications

Home | Latin America on the Web | Publication Highlights
Special Reports | Links | About Us | Conexiones

Copyright 2002 -- ISLA