The impact of a right-hand woman

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When asked where she spends most of her time at Heritage, Mrs. Lopez replied that behind the desk opening to the front window was like her office. After almost twenty years of sitting in the same chair every day, Mrs. Lopez is taking her next step in life. (Photo/Joanne Haner)

For just under 20 years, new and old families walking into the admissions office were greeted by Mrs. Sandy Lopez. After moving up the ranks from a phone operator, to administration assistant and eventually up to Mr. William Laurie and Dr. Doug Laurie’s personal assistant, Mrs. Lopez is saying goodbye to what she calls her second family and taking on her next challenge in life.

Prior to her time at Heritage, Mrs. Lopez worked in a medical office. After just having her third child, her friend recommended her a job as an operator at a school she had never heard of: American Heritage. As she came in for her job interview, Mrs. Lopez recalls that security guard Mr. Gene Jackson drove her from her parking spot to the location of her interview.

“He brought me, and he said ‘You’re going to get the job,’” Mrs. Lopez said. After meeting with Mr. Laurie, he hired her on the spot. What surprised Mrs. Lopez at the time was that all three of her children could attend Heritage for free.

“That to me was like, ‘What?’ Just the fact that my kids were going to get a private school education, I was so excited,” Mrs. Lopez said. As she left the interview newly hired, Mr. Jackson drove her back across campus to her parking spot.

“He asked me ‘Well?’ and I said ‘I got it!’ and he said ‘I told you!,” Mrs. Lopez recalled.

Two weeks later, July 6, 1999, Mrs. Lopez began what would be her job of twenty years. Her oldest daughter Lauren would start kindergarten that year. A few years later, Mrs. Lopez’s son Amado would begin preschool, and one more year later her youngest daughter Janese would follow the same route. All three of her kids graduated from Heritage in 2012, 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Throughout her time at Heritage, Mrs. Lopez has handled phone operations, managing Mr. and Dr. Laurie’s respective calendars and scheduling as well as overseen enrollment of new families each year. However, now that all three of her kids have graduated, she feels that her time has come to step out of the office.

“I think change is good. It was not anything that I planned. I just felt I needed to be a little bit more challenged. I also wanted to give other people a chance,” Mrs. Lopez said. “My children came here, they graduated here. I want to give that opportunity to others.”

After all the time Mrs. Lopez has spent working so close to Mr. Laurie, she almost sees him as sort of a father figure. In fact, she sees all her office staff as a second family. Sharing times of joy, sadness and everything in between, her colleagues were always there for her, but more so as friends.

“Here at Heritage, we are a family. Not just the people you’re working with at an office, but all across campus. If one of ours is in trouble, everybody pulls together,” Mrs. Lopez said. “Even when you’re not having a good day, you have these people like your family to bring you up.”

Few people get to work as close to the original Heritage president as Mrs. Lopez has, and that is an experience she says she will always be grateful for. Mrs. Lopez notes that Mr. Laurie is a visionary with impeccable memory.

“Heritage has truly been a home for me and my family. I’m always going to feel that this is home for me. I hope that people remember that everything I did, I did it with such pride, because I feel that’s what Heritage gives you. It gives you pride. I feel that everything has been a privilege.”

Joanne is a senior at American Heritage School in Plantation, Fla. As a third-year staffer and second-year editor-in-chief, she loves immersing herself in the journalistic field and writing for her publications. Outside of newspaper, Joanne is also co-president of the English Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta math honor society, where she also serves as the student delegate state secretary. Among the other clubs she is a part of, Joanne is also secretary of the linguistics team and Chinese Honor Society, as well as treasurer for Quill and Scroll. In her free time, Joanne loves practicing her photography and going to concerts.

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