'Something to prove'
Left to fend for himself at a young age, Stevan Perez said he entered STC wise to the ways of the world. Now as a graduate of the BASOL program, he’s ready to give back.
STC BASOL graduate Stevan Perez says the college offered him a plan to move forward despite significant obstacles in his life.
Nothing in life has come easy for Stevan Perez. Acknowledging that whatever he has endured has enabled him to reach success later in life, Perez says he hopes his own hardships can help reach other students who are struggling to get through.
Struggling is something he has become very familiar with over the years, he said.
Born in Humble, a city located in Harris County within the Houston metro area, Stevan, 26, said he arrived in the Valley as a second grader. As his mother sought to offer him and his two siblings a better life, she opted to leave them with an aunt before moving on her own to Abilene.
With his father in and out of prison and living in foster families and shelters at a young age, Stevan said he lived with his aunt in Pharr who tried her best to raise him and his siblings despite having three kids of her own.
“There really was nothing there at all with my mom, so it was tough growing up,” he said. “My aunt didn't have full custody of us, so it was hard to get into school. It was actually hard to do a lot of things because my aunt really didn’t have any money or anything like that to provide for us.
“It was extremely tough; extremely, extremely tough and exhausting and everything you could think of,” he said. “But you grow stronger from that, so in a way, I'm grateful for what I've been through, it's made me who I am today.”
As a former dual enrollment student at PSJA North High School, Perez said he juggled classwork and odd jobs from a young age. Even as a sophomore in high school, he would mow yards in order to earn extra money and relieve his aunt’s stress, he said.
“I wanted to prove something to myself. When I saw STC was offering the program I wanted to prove to myself that I could finish something and get a degree. I was the first one in my family to get a degree, so getting a degree was a big thing for me.”
When he graduated high school in 2011, Stevan said he started working to make ends meet in whatever way possible. On top of working full-time, as well as paying for college out of his own pocket, he would donate plasma twice a week, which he did for two years to support himself.
His college studies suffered at this time. Stevan would work 60 hours a week as a manager of a local gym while attending classes at STC. After work, he recalls going to Shipley Donuts on 10th street in McAllen, which was open 24 hours a day. He didn’t have access to the Internet at home, so he would arrive at 11 p.m. and study biology and anatomy all night until class at 7 a.m. the next day, he said.
Even with these efforts, his initial plan for a Biology degree didn’t pan out, and he eventually switched his focus to business. Perez recalls entering STC’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership (BASOL) program with a 1.8 GPA.
It was at this time that faculty at STC offered a plan to move forward despite the obstacles in his life, he said.
“I wanted to prove something to myself,” Stevan said. “When I saw STC was offering the program I wanted to prove to myself that I could finish something and get a degree. I was the first one in my family to get a degree, so getting a degree was a big thing for me.”
Moving on from a Biology degree, Stevan said he instead became immersed in business. He liked the sound of it all; business accounting, principles of business and business ethics, small business management, entrepreneurship, and statistical methods. It all opened a newfound love for education that he hadn’t realized until then, he said.
“STC is an amazing college,” Stevan said. “I think what you guys are doing is phenomenal to students who are underprivileged and who can't afford an education. It was very simple, the process is simple, they tell you what to do and you just get it done.”
Upon graduating from STC, Stevan said he eventually became a financial advisor at World Financial Group, and a licensed insurance agent with State Farm. These days he is employed as an advertising account executive for a local newspaper. He is currently planning to attend the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley in the fall in order to pursue an MBA in financial planning.
When his education is complete, Stevan said he would like to return to STC to impact students who need the motivation just like he did when he was struggling.
“STC is great, and I would love to teach there soon,” he said. “I would love to give back. I tutor a lot of students as well who are currently in the (BASOL) program, and I've helped out plenty of students this past semester because I understand the program very thoroughly.
“I was really good at those classes because of my love for business as well as those concepts of marketing, leadership, ethics,” he added. “Most of all, I enjoy helping students.”