Claudia Perez is invested. She’s invested in her schoolwork, goals, and on-campus organizations. The overarching theme of her investments? Building community.
Perez is a second year communication studies student, minoring in legal and ethnic studies. She values the broadness of her studies because they give her the freedom to work in different areas including law, education, and marketing.
Perez also believes her course of study helps her see herself and the world around her more critically. This perspective has influenced her involvement in many different communities.
Perez is also driven.
“One of my high-reach goals is to get a 4.0 this semester,” says Perez, who hit that mark in her first year and is drawn to the challenge. “That’s the point of being in college.”
She believes her success depends on building a strong community of like-minded peers who raise each other up.
One way Perez creates community is through her job as a La Conexion Family Leader with CSU’s El Centro office. La Conexion is a mentorship program for first year students specifically within the Latinx community.
Perez was a La Conexion participant in her first year at CSU and found some of her closest friends. She will now lead a family of 10 students participants (out of 70 total).
Perez describes La Conexion as a safe place where students don’t need to explain who they are and are empowered to show their vulnerable side. “Family members” can ask their leaders question they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable asking.
“I’m excited for them to have a place where they feel welcomed,” said Perez. “There’s a feeling of isolation, or a different type of pressure put on students of color in higher education. There’s a perception that you have to be the model minority because you are the only one in the community.”
Perez works to change this stigma and support her Latinx community. She hopes to help first years excel in the program like she did her first year.Volunteer opportunities and leadership retreats are just a few of the many programs students can participate in.
Her excitement serving as a La Conexion leader is similar to her excitement for her liberal arts degree.
In fact, Perez has been inspired to showcase her passion for the value of a liberal arts education by serving as a College of Liberal Arts Ambassador. CLA Ambassadors recruit new students, support existing students, and improve the college itself. Perez has only worked as an ambassador since August but already helps CLA prospective students and their parents by talking with them and answering questions.
Another thing Perez and other CLA ambassadors are working on is changing is the perception that a liberal arts education is not relevant nor valued as highly as a STEM degree. Perez believes and knows otherwise.
“There’s a reason we’re the largest college on campus,” Perez says. “There’s a stereotype that it’s all fun and games and singing about poetry. People don’t see how [a liberal arts education] is applicable in society, but it helps you be a citizen in your community. The engineers are the people who build society, but the liberal arts students are the ones who run it. You’re building it, but I’m governing it, and making it stronger socially. We’re successful.”
Perez also donates her time to Truinfo, a elementary school tutoring program, is part of CSU’s honors community, and has been asked to give this year’s College of Liberal Arts scholarship recipient speech at the college’s annual donor brunch in late October.
The investments Perez makes in her community is due in part to the generosity of others. “I owe it to the people who are investing in me to make the most of their money and their sacrifice,” says Perez.
But she doesn’t need financial support to be inspired to make a difference for others. Her own generosity is woven into the fabric of her investments, both at home and internationally.
“I’d like to be in the Peace Corps,” Perez says. “My family’s very fortunate with the resources that we had. One of my main goals is to not hoard every gift I’ve been given, and make a difference in the world.”
If it seems like Perez is doing a lot, she is, but with clear reason.
“I’m doing it because I am truly genuinely passionate about everything I’m involved with,” said Perez. “I get a lot of inspiration from the College of Liberal Arts. Our motto is Live your Passion–it’s just loving what you do.”