08:28 AM

How Sept. 11 became Fire Science student's call to action

Student of the Week: Jose Perez

We know that 343 firefighters died that day running into a burning building trying to save as many people as they could. This was the moment that decided my future.

STC Student of the Week Jose Perez

South Texas College Fire Science Student Jose Perez recalls the exact moment he was inspired to enlist in the military and pursue a career as a firefighter.  

Like many who witnessed the tragic events of Sept. 11, Perez said he recalls being deeply affected when he saw the collapse of the Twin Towers, and how he knew this was his call to action.   

“We know that 343 firefighters died that day running into a burning building trying to save as many people as they could,” Perez said. “This was the moment that decided my future.”

More than 20 years later, Perez is now a veteran of the Marine Corps, with a tour of duty in Iraq in 2004, and a career firefighter with 15 years of service.

Currently employed with the city of Progreso Fire Department, Perez said he knew he needed a degree to move up within his career, making the decision to return to college in 2021 to receive an Associate of Applied Science in Fire Technology. He will be graduating next month.  

“I came to STC because I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to get an education. I am a Marine Corps veteran so when I came here to register, the help I received from Veterans Affairs (VA) and the STC staff was amazing,” Perez said. “Education means a lot; and by me finishing my associate degree I will be able to accomplish the next step in  my career, which is to become a master-level firefighter, which I can accomplish by having a degree in fire science.”

On the academic side, the Fire Science program at STC offers three degree plans that enable students to receive either an Occupational Skills Award as an Emergency Management Specialist, a Basic Firefighter Certificate or associate degree in Fire Science Technology.

Perez added that he has advice and a challenge for other students like him.

“We only have one life so take advantage and come back to school. I decided to come back a year ago, and I'm almost done so you can do it too,” Perez said. “I was able to accomplish my dream at 40 years old, so if you're one of those people, like I was, sitting at home dreaming of going back to school, do it. And to all of those veterans like myself who are out there, go to college, come back to school, educate yourself. That’s the only way you can move up that ladder.”