The Opportunity Maker

Right after college, Ruth Lopez-McCarthy (LAW ’09) started Doorknocking. It was the community organizing, block club kind of outreach: pushing for more alley lights, safety patrols, and better garbage pickup.

On the first day, she knocked on the door of a childhood friend. They talked about their childhood, growing up in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood of Chicago.

“I met friends and leaders who would share their immigration stories with me. I really felt a calling to answer, with my skills and lived experience. I know what it is to be a child of immigrants, with that understanding that [the life you built] could all go away,” Lopez-McCarthy says.

With a father who immigrated from Peru and a mother who immigrated from Colombia, Lopez-McCarthy—born in Chicago—didn’t learn to speak English until she was five. Her father was imprisoned when she was 1-year-old, leaving her mother and grandmother to raise her for a time. Her mother went back to school to become a public school teacher.

Her father, upon being released, had a deportation hearing. He received representation from immigration services and was able to stay, eventually becoming a tool and die maker and never breaking the law again. She thought a lot about her father as she decided upon a career.

“In Catholic school, I learned about liberation theology…but it wasn’t until I was in college that I really decided and thought about what I wanted to do,” she says.

This story was featured in the summer 2023 issue of Illinois Tech Magazine. You can read the full story on the Illinois Tech Magazine website

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