by Jackie Perez
My name is Jacqueline Perez and I’m a rising junior at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (Go Blue Devils!). As a first-generation college student from a low socioeconomic background, I know firsthand the issues UnidosNow is tackling. In high school, I had a dream team of my own: three amazing teachers who pushed me into achieving something greater, ultimately, becoming a National QuestBridge Scholar. This summer, I’ve been fortunate to meet and work alongside another dream team—a dedicated group of individuals who are doing incredible things in the Latino/a/x community.
Being an associate at UnidosNow has provided me with the opportunity to explore my interest in educational access and outreach—a passion that somehow always ended up being placed on the back burner. But UnidosNow challenged me to think critically. My main UnidosNow project was working with the Future Leaders Academy (FLA). I was responsible for establishing a foundation to strengthen career-exploration opportunities for these students.
For someone who enjoys solving puzzles, I didn’t mind spending hours brainstorming what an effective career-exploration curriculum would look like. I was also able to strengthen my communication skills by going into the community and initiating dialogue on future collaborations. I had the opportunity to meet both community partners and employment-agency professionals, and educate myself on the resources available at State College of Florida and Manatee Technical College.
Given the size of UnidosNow, I learned how to adapt and wear many different hats, so to speak, which I appreciate because it gave me the opportunity to work with students one-on-one, from mentoring students seeking to become QuestBridge Scholars to helping other students reflect on who they are and what they value. For a long minute I could see myself as a college advisor.
Moving forward, I have no doubt that I will apply the skills I’ve learned during my UnidosNow experience, whether it’s in the education field or in public health (another passion of mine). What I am sure of is that I want to continue serving the Latino/a/x community in the U.S. and affecting the lives of future generations.
I’m extremely grateful to everyone at UnidosNow for an amazing and welcoming experience. Thank you for all the work you do to help students dream big!
Duke University Class of 2021
Palmetto High Alumnus