Karen Esparza Lopez

2 years in Foster Care

22 years old


Karen Esparza Lopez is an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley, and plans to continue her education to obtain a dual degree: a Master’s in Public Policy, and a Juris Doctor. Karen is committed to higher education, and sees the opportunity an education provides as a beacon of light to guide her from a life of generational poverty and homelessness. Ultimately, Karen aspires to become the Acting Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, where she can lead the nation’s efforts to empower marginalized communities within the child welfare system.

A life in public service is a natural fit for Karen, who has held a number of leadership positions in her community. She served as President of the Political Science Student Association at Riverside Community College, where she was also a student ambassador for the Guided Pathways program, a peer mentor for the Guardian Scholars Program, and an intern for the Hisapanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE) Leadership program. She currently works with Berkeley Hope Scholars, which helps current and former foster youth develop support networks and stay on track with their education goals. Karen is also a John Burton Youth Advocate, and has previously served as a delegate for the National Foster Youth Institute, a member of California Youth Connection, and chairperson of the Riverside County Youth Action Board.

Karen was in foster care for two years. During her experience, Karen came to understand how deeply policies and legislation impacted herself and other young people, who did not have a choice to be in the child welfare system. She felt that she was being tossed around to different placements, group homes, and schools, and that many of those decisions were made for her by people who did not know what life in foster care is like. Karen is determined to bring her personal experiences in foster care into the top levels of decision making. She believes that representation is critical to improve access to resources, accountability, and transparency in the child welfare system.

Team(s) or Cohort(s)
2022 Outstanding Young Leaders
Council Member - Past