Yuri Lopez: Receiving to give
June 16, 2009

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Yuri (pronounced “Judy”) Lopez is looking forward to taking her place as a member of the Lady Lions soccer team this fall after spending the past year working to confirm the trust Bryan administrators and faculty displayed by offering her a place in the Class of 2012.

Yuri, a health and exercise science major from Honduras, plans to play midfield for the Lady Lions this fall, another step toward her dream of becoming a professional soccer player and missionary. She said coming to the United States is a necessary part of her plan, as opportunities are severely limited in her home country.

But “limited opportunities” hardly describes her journey. From age 2, she lived in an orphanage and interrupted her education at age 13, when she went to work in the orphanage kitchen. Dr. Randy Hollingsworth, her Bryan “father,” explained that an American missionary arranged to cover the cost of Yuri’s education through high school.

Yuri Lopez, front left.  Back row: Taylor, Jennifer,
Randy, and Kara Hollingsworth
The Hollingsworth family (pictured here with Yuri) met Yuri in 2005 when she served as their translator on a mission trip. As they prepared to return to Tennessee, the Hollingsworths told Yuri “'We’ll see you later.' She said, ‘Hasta (until) never,’” Dr. Hollingsworth recalled. “She told us so many people came through saying that and she never saw them again. When she said that, we decided we definitely would come back to prove her wrong.” They did the following summer.

Yuri became valedictorian of her high school class two years ago, and shortly thereafter called the Hollingsworths and said, “When do I come to Bryan?”

She received a conditional visa to visit the United States in 2008 and enrolled in an English as a Second Language program at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, where she received the award as the most improved ESL student. Despite her achievement in class, her test scores still were not high enough for unconditional acceptance at Bryan, so she briefly considered an offer of a full scholarship to a junior college in Georgia.

The Hollingsworths took her to see the Charlotte Eagles professional soccer team for her birthday in 2008, where she met “two girls on the Bryan soccer team and started talking with them. I liked them and the coach.”

By the time she had to make a decision about college, “I knew most of the girls on the (Bryan) team, and Taylor and Kara (Hollingsworth). I didn’t know anybody down there. I wanted to be at Bryan because it is a Christian college. They don’t just say the name, they prove it.”

She talked with Bryan President Dr. Stephen Livesay, who was impressed with her desire and recognized she had the qualities targeted in the Joe Medlin Servant’s Heart Scholarship, a Bryan grant available to international students. She did not play soccer but concentrated on academics her freshman year. Her efforts were rewarded when she made the Dean’s List for having better than a 3.5 grade average on Bryan’s 4.0 scale.

Jennifer (Mrs. Randy) Hollingsworth said, “I have never seen a more dedicated person. She studied all the time.”

Yuri added, “I got lots of help, from (English professor) Mr. (William) Harle, the library, the writing center.” And while she was receiving help in the academic support center and friends, she returned the favor by tutoring her friends who were struggling with Spanish lessons.

“I focused on academics,” Yuri said. “If I didn’t get that, I wouldn’t be able to play soccer.” The effort has paid off because she already has been given a number–"5"–to wear this fall.

Assistance through the Joe Medlin Servant’s Heart Scholarship to help pay her school bills, and the Hollingsworth family providing housing made it possible for Yuri to be at Bryan. “We trusted God that He would provide finances for Yuri to come,” Jennifer Hollingworth said. “This is the kind of student we want to see use this scholarship.”

The Medlin Scholarship was established by a gift from the Cawood Foundation to help international students receive an education at Bryan and return to their home country equipped to influence their country for the gospel and in other positive ways.

When Yuri graduates, she hopes to play soccer professionally so she can raise money to provide for an athletics-based ministry in Honduras. Most children and young people there don’t have the positive influences she hopes to provide.

“Without the scholarship I would not be able to be doing what I am doing,” she said. “I am really grateful for what this is doing for me.”