At 18 years old, Brooke Lopez was the youngest individual ever to run for Wylie City Council. Inspired to run by the murder of her high school friend and a desire to affect change in her community, she balanced her freshman year of college at UTD with her first political campaign.
“When I was 15, I had a friend who was murdered by two other students that we went to school with and I sort of got thrown into politics. It felt less like a choice and more like something I had to do,” Lopez said. “I started working on some bills related to juvenile laws, gun control laws- really trying to focus on making sure that that would never happen again.”
Lopez lost the election. But now, as she prepares to step into law school, she has invested her time into a series of organizations she hopes can help women achieve a louder voice on Texas’s political stage. While bedridden after a gallbladder surgery last year, Lopez began writing a thesis paper on the demographics of women running for office across the United States. She discovered, however, a large gap in any usable data below the State Legislature level. Together with her friend Adrianna Maberry, Lopez founded the Lone Star Parity Project, a non-profit organization aiming to provide women with the tools and data they need to push Texas towards gender equality throughout all levels of government.
“What Adrianna and I hope to do is really start to separate Texas into the different geographic locations because, for example, if you’re a woman running for office in El Paso, you’re going to have a whole different set of issues and policies than if you were running in the Permian Basin,” Lopez explained. “So what (we) want to do is really start looking at all 245 counties across the state of Texas and…start to connect the dots for women running across the state.”
Lopez emphasized that the Lone Star Parity Project is not only building a dataset of electoral numbers and demographic information but also developing a network of politically-involved women who could possibly contribute their support and advice to others hoping to become leaders within their own communities.
“We interview everyone from student activists in their local communities to local congresswomen, and by getting their perspective, we’re essentially gathering data from what they’re sharing and what they’re saying and adding that to what we already have in terms of numbers,” Lopez said.
Co-founding her own nonprofit is not the only way in which Lopez has remained engaged in her community. She was awarded both the 2017 and 2018 Presidential Volunteer Service Award for completing over 250 certified community service hours. Lopez also works for Ignite, a national organization developed with the intent to help young women become more civically engaged and politically aware. Lopez helps to mentor Ignite groups in two different high schools across the DFW area, both of which have already begun to seek change in their community.
“One of my student groups that I work with hosted a rally for National Walk-Out Day that was school-wide. And the other student group created a Dallas ISD campaign where they were able to get free menstrual hygiene products, or at least the start of this program, in all of the middle schools and high schools in DISD,” she said. “Those are two badass things that those girls have done and I’m so honored to be able to get to be there to help guide them in that process.”
Lopez said her studies at UNT’s law school this fall will take precedence over her own political aspirations, for now. She said she is unsure when she will run again in the future, or even what position she will vie for. But with four extra years of experience behind her back, Lopez said she hopes to serve her home state of Texas better than ever before.
“I learned a lot of things from my first political campaign that I would go back and do again and there were a lot of different things that I wished I would have done differently,” Lopez said. “So next time when I run for office, I can run an even more impactful campaign and, whether or not I win, I want to do something that I am even more proud of than the one I ran when I was 18.”