Inspiring Wildcat: Hopal Richards '24

Hopal Richards '24 has defined her name through a blend of passion, leadership and unwavering spirit as she tries new experiences at Johnson & Wales.

She shares a bit about her experiences at JWU and her advice for fellow students pursuing their dreams.

Hopal Richards '24 poses smiling in front of the JWU Charlotte wildcat statue
J-who? JWU! Hopal Richards '24 shows her Wildcat pride while posing on JWU's Charlotte Campus.


Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the inspiration behind your unique name, Hopal Richards?

Certainly! My name, pronounced "Hope-all," was given to me by my mother, who always emphasized the importance of hope in our lives. It's a reminder to always have hope, no matter the circumstances.

You're a senior majoring in Culinary Arts/Food & Beverage Industry Management at JWU. As a first-generation college student, can you share your experience and what led you to pursue this field of study? 

Being the first in my family to attend college was like diving into a pool without swimming experience: either sink or float! Thankfully, the support from my JWU family, home family and friends have helped me stay afloat.

I've always loved cooking, and in high school, a cooking lab sparked my interest. My teacher encouraged us to try new foods, and from there, I knew culinary arts was my calling.

Golf seems like an unexpected passion for a culinary arts/food and beverage industry management major. How did you get into the sport, and why is it a significant part of your life?

Living next to a golf course in high school, I often found golf balls coming over the fence. I started collecting them, and the habit stuck. I'm even known as a "ball hoarder" on my team!

When I arrived at JWU, I wanted to get involved in something new and thought I’d golf a try. Coach Jean [Macon] took me under her wing and graciously mentored me, imparting all her golfing wisdom. Golf has taught me mental focus, patience, and the importance of staying calm. It's also where I learned a valuable life lesson: "If something is not going as you would like, drop another ball and try again," a phrase shared by Coach Jean.

As a leader on campus, holding roles like student body president, resident advisor, Caribbean Student Society president, and recognized as the USCAA Female Golf Student-Athlete of the year, how do you balance your responsibilities?

Balancing responsibilities comes down to mental focus, patience and maintaining a sense of peace and calmness. My coach's advice echoes in my mind - if things aren't going well, drop another ball and try again.

Hopal Richards '24 poses with her USCAA Female Golf Student-Athlete of the Year medal in front of a backdrop of sponsor logos
"You may not be great at a sport, but there's no reason not to try. Trying something new enhances your college experience," says Hopal Richards '24, USCAA Female Golf Student-Athlete of the Year.


I also draw inspiration from my faith, my mom, Coach Jean, and the motto 'Ad astra per aspera' – through hardships to the stars.

What led you to JWU, and how has your experience been as a student here?

Being from Jamaica, where there's less diversity, I appreciate the multicultural environment on the Charlotte Campus of JWU. The dream of arriving in a yellow dress with a blue suitcase foreshadowed my journey here.

The support I've received has been incredible, and I genuinely love JWU.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of culinary arts and golf?

I enjoy making TikToks about cooking and our golf trips. Geography has always been my first love, and I also have an interest in human and social sciences, particularly the effects of earthquakes on people.

Looking ahead, what are your plans for life after JWU?

I'm considering gaining work experience or pursuing a master's in hospitality and tourism. My family is excited about me venturing into the workforce and hopes I'll reopen my business, Hopie's Kitchen, that specializes in authentic Jamaican meals and fruit cake.

Finally, what advice do you have for fellow students on trying new things and pursuing their dreams?

Dressed in blue and yellow, Hopal Richards '24 takes a selfie on JWU's Charlotte Campus
"It's okay to dream big, work hard, start over, try something new or move to a new place," advises Hopal Richards '24.


You may not be great at a sport, but there's no reason not to try. Trying something new enhances your college experience.

It's okay to dream big, work hard, start over, try something new or move to a new place.

Continually work hard to become the best version of yourself.

Those are all things I’ve done, and it’s made me who I am today.


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