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Man with past criminal history gets second chance to turn life around, joins NASA program

SAN ANTONIO – April is Second Chance Awareness Month, and Jaime Lopez Jr. is making the most of his.

Formerly arrested on charges of aggravated robbery, Lopez is now back in the workforce, attending school and participating in a NASA program.

“I’ve been doing different cooking jobs throughout my career,” said Lopez.

“And so this has been your go-to spot ever since?” asked KSAT’s John Paul Barajas.

“Yeah, for sure, this is my main means of employment,” Lopez answered.

Lopez’s story is much more than landing a job as a cook at NOLA Brunch and Beignets. It was just the beginning of his second chance.

“Once I got introduced to methamphetamine, it was all downhill from there,” said Lopez.

He began struggling with substance abuse in 2016 when he was 22.

“I had an episode of drug-induced psychosis, and from there, the sky was the limit. I was delusional,” said Lopez.

In January 2019, Lopez was arrested on charges of aggravated robbery and theft.

“The Gang Unit task force pulled up on me. I think it was the gang unit because they handle dangerous individuals, and at that time, I was classified as a dangerous individual,” said Lopez.

He spent 18 months in jail and said his time behind bars and rehab made him want to change. Missing the birth of his first child made him realize he had to change.

“I had a lot of help,” Lopez said.

Not only is Lopez working now, but he’s taking classes at St. Philip’s College and getting a wide-ranging background in S.T.E.M.

“I currently hold a 3.6 (GPA). I’m on target to graduate with honors,” he said.

His work landed him a spot in the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program, which tasked him with organizing a trip to Mars for astronauts.

“Day one, immediately I’m talking to NASA personnel. I’m doing events. I’m doing meetings, and they’re very encouraging. They make you feel inspired,” said Lopez.

He hopes to graduate from St. Philip’s College in 2025 and continue his education at UT Austin. His goal is to intern at NASA.

“Why was it so important for you to reach out to us knowing we had done stories about your troubled past?” asked Barajas.

“A lot of people have troubled past, and they become their own worst enemies, and they will self-doubt themselves before trying to achieve something great,” answered Lopez.