Thanks to a supportive teacher, Bran Lopez took on an active role in student life and excelled, landing in Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies.
It was during his time at the university that Bran Lopez was invited to share his experiences with students at 12 low-performing high schools as a guest speaker. “I talked about growing up in a rough neighbourhood, how I made it to university, what made me persevere and really pursue post-secondary education,” he says.
Following his presentations, Bran Lopez would always ask students what kind of school programs would help keep them motivated. Their answer: fewer guest speakers like him and more hands-on, year-long projects.
Fast forward a decade and his award-winning organization Youth Fusion provides these kids with just that – innovative and meaningful educational projects that contribute to their learning, qualifications and social integration. Think everything from theatre and opera programs to robotics, video game creation and environmental design. By providing them with these type of activities, Youth Fusion hopes they can encourage more kids to stay in school.
When Bran Lopez first had the idea for Youth Fusion, he approached Concordia to help get the project off the ground.
“Concordia is an essential piece in all of this. Without Concordia there would have been no CEED [Community, Empowerment, Education and Development] funding and no office,” says Bran Lopez. “There also would have been no direct access to people like the chancellor, the president and other senior administrators, who all played key roles.”
Former Concordia chancellor L. Jacques Ménard, BComm 67, LLD 06, took a particular interest in Youth Fusion. “He [Ménard] heard of me through the Concordia network and asked if we could meet,” says Bran Lopez.
Today Ménard is on Youth Fusion’s board of directors as honorary president, after having been chairman for nine years. “From the beginning, I truly believed in Youth Fusion and its mission to encourage young students to stay in school by setting up projects that motivate, stimulate and engage them,” he says.
John Parisella, BA 67, and Arvind Ramanathan, BComm 01, also sit on Youth Fusion’s board, while many Concordia alumni work at the charity.