When I was growing up there were only one or two Latina mentors; one of them was Ms. Perez. Her full name is Maria Perez Vives and I caught up with her to see what she was doing 30+ years later. I was glad to know that she never gave up on her dreams; just recently at the age of 62, she received her doctorates from Alvernia College.
If you want to talk about “It’s never too late” Mrs. Perez breathes and walks it. Perez was raised in Puerto Rico by a father who had only a 5th-grade education and a mother with no education. She grew up in a family of 7 children, which was very common back those days; both to have very little or no education and to have a big family. Maria was one of the fortunate ones; her brothers choose to work in order to afford their sisters to go to school.
In the 80’s Perez moved from Puerto Rico where she was an assistant teacher to NY in search of a better life for her daughters. She jumped and took a chance. She didn’t stay long in NY and moved to Reading, Pennsylvania. She came here as a single mom, with language barriers & left her profession behind only to start from zero as a dishwasher at a local Hospital here in Berks County. However, these were all stepping stones as she never gave up. After only being here for 2 years she got her Bachelors degree all over again. Yes, she did it all over! Then she got her masters and today her doctorates. She definitely is a woman to look up to!
When I asked Ms. Perez what message she had for our readers? She said; “Be yourself, be committed, educate yourself, have goals and it will take you places and be a role model for your kids.” Keep in mind that some things in life take time; Mrs. Perez is the perfect example of these words; she never, never gave up, and neither should you.
By Rosa Julia Parra