June 1, 2009 - The youngest of nine children, Miguel Perez came to the United States with his family at age 9 to pursue a better life. His parents, farm workers from Guanajuato, Mexico, settled in Arvin to work the fields and support their family - all while instilling the importance of a formal education in their children. Their youngest took their message to heart and Saturday, June 13, Perez will be the first of his family to graduate from college when he crosses the stage at California State University, Bakersfield.
"When I arrived in Arvin and enrolled in third grade at Bear Mountain Elementary, I could not speak a word of English," explained Perez. "It took me nearly a year to really start to understand the language. But once I could understand it, I did better in school. It was around middle school age that I really learned how important it was to my parents that I continue my education and finish in school. They continually reinforced how important school is and I believe that is one of the reasons why I am here today."
While universities can sometimes be overwhelming to high school students getting their first glimpse of campus life, Arvin High School's tour of CSUB inspired Perez. From the moment he stepped on campus he felt a sense of belonging and was at ease about going to college. "The tour of CSUB helped me make critical decisions about my future," Perez said. "I thought the campus was really beautiful and felt at home here right away. I knew right then I wanted to attend CSUB."
After graduating from Arvin in 2003, Perez entered CSUB as a freshman talking classes in various career paths, including nursing and biology. During his six years on campus, there were times when he did not think he would finish and receive his diploma. But he never gave up. His determination will pay off as he receives a bachelor's degree in sociology.
"It has been a great experience," Perez said. "I finished because I wanted to set an example for others in my family. I pushed myself and asked for help when I needed it. I made a lot of friends at CSUB and signed up for the mini-corps program, which allows me to work as an instructional assistant/tutor at Golden Valley High School. I have gotten so much more out of this experience than I ever imagined."
After graduation, Perez hopes to work with Kern County's Department of Human Services as a social worker. He plans to pursue a master's degree in social work and hopes to help young children who, like Perez did, seemingly have the deck stacked against them. If given the opportunity, he will give those children helpful advice to get them through the tough times.
"I would tell all kids to stay focused and concentrate in school," Perez added. "I would tell them that they can achieve their dreams if they stay focused. They might face some difficulties, but everything is possible if they believe in themselves."
Sage advice that helped Miguel Perez get to where he is today.
For more information:Michele Newell
Media ContactColleen Dillaway, Director of Public Affairs & Communications