Brenda Perez, a San Joaquin Delta College student, wants to be a civil engineer. She is the President at SkillsUSA Region for the college division in California.
“In the future, I see myself with a chart on my hands as a civil engineer, on the side of a new building, overseeing the project and telling clients your building will look like this.” Currently, the 19 year old is in her second year in the engineering program at Delta College.
Being a young Latina aspiring to enter a male dominant profession, as in the case of Engineering, has not been easy, says Perez.
Being part of programs like MESA (Math Engineering Science Achievement) and Puente (Bridge) program at Delta College makes her feels like she is “not the only one.”
“In these programs, I see a lot of people like me —women— Latinos and other minorities, but in general, women have a really low percentage of attendees,” noted Perez.
First-generation students like Perez often face unique challenges in their quest to complete their education, but Perez has added support from college staff, friends, faculty and family to help her with the process.
From filling out financial aid forms, to actually applying to college, “I had to do it all on my own,” said Perez. It is for this reason that Perez is dedicated to be a mentor and role-model to her three younger sisters.
For the last four years Perez has been part of SkillsUSA —a national nonprofit organization. She has competed at a national level, winning gold and silver medals. Just last month, February 2012, she competed at a regional level.
“I have gained confidence and learned leadership skills, team work skills.” Perez believes that participating in competitions helps students explore and recognize their talents.
While it is true that Latinos have one of the lowest high school and college completion rates of any group, many students like Perez fight day by day against the statistics.
For Perez, the most important thing to get a student through school is to have motivation and to build a support system.
“It feels that there are more students trying harder together to get an education, [rather] than dropping out, there are a lot of us out there trying really hard.”