From an early age, Rachel Perez knew her career path would lead to the medical industry.
At the age of 6, her father was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease. Years later, a close friend underwent cancer therapy. She was present as both received expert medical care and recovered. Those experiences of seeing modern medicine in action inspired her to help others.
Before med school, Perez will study biology at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) thanks to a scholarship from the Lone Star College (LSC) Foundation. A recent LSC associate’s graduate, Perez will be a full-time Gator starting this fall.
“I’m looking forward to becoming involved with student activities and being a part of this university,” she said. “I love that it’s in downtown. It’s a great campus that’s connected to so many areas of our city.”
The daughter of missionaries, Perez was born in Spain and raised in the Acres Homes area of Houston. She attended Shady Acres Christian School, balancing both high school classes with coursework at Lone Star College.
“Lone Star College has played a large role in my life for the past few years,” she said. “It’s because of the college’s close relationship with UHD that I selected it as my university of choice.”
Before stepping foot into UHD classrooms, Perez will make time for her favorite activity – traveling. Perez is an avid traveler and said that Delaware is among her favorite places to visit. She also has ventured abroad, following in her parents’ footsteps as a missionary.
“I traveled to Paraguay in high school on a missions trip,” Perez said. “It was unlike any experience I’ve ever had. I was able to help build a church and teach children. It was unforgettable.”
Another unforgettable experience was learning of her LSC Foundation Scholarship. Perez was presented with the award by Dr. Faiza Khoja, UHD associate vice president for academic affairs during the LSC Foundation StarGala.
“I was expecting to receive perhaps $1,000 or a little more,” Perez said. “Dr. Khoja showed me the paper that read ‘full scholarship.’ I was like, ‘Wow!’ My parents were ecstatic. I am very grateful to both LSC and UHD for their support.”
As Perez prepares for the latest leg of her academic journey, she offers these words of advice to students attending community college and contemplating a bachelor’s degree.
“You’ve made it this far. Why stop now?” Perez said. “Keep working hard, and it will pay off in the end.”
Perez is a prime example of “Gator Grit” and reflects UHD’s commitment to its transfer students. Through partnerships with community colleges, such as HCC and LSC, students have opportunities to seamlessly transition from associate’s programs into undergraduate majors at UHD.