By Hannah Duffee
As Yearbook and Journalism teacher Mrs. Perez talked through the day's plans with her elective class, SOAR Alum Kelly Marie Perez Pagaza sat quietly in the back of the classroom, methodically observing the class and scrolling through Instagram and checking her emails at the same time. Graduate of the Class of 2018, Kelly had been visiting her old stomping grounds for the past few days now, catching up with old teachers and giving advice to Seniors in AVID classes. After a few moments, the students around her erupted with conversation, school-related and some not-so-school-related topics ringing throughout the classroom. Can you check the layout for the Back to School Night page? Don’t forget to fill out the form for Senior Superlatives! How much money do we need to spend for Haunted House decorations and- OH MY GOSH, THE QUEEN IS DEAD!
Needless to say, the classroom and the overall atmosphere of SOAR was much different than Kelly had remembered. “To be honest, it is so different,” she explained, “This is not the same SOAR I’ve walked into before, with all the new classrooms and block schedule. And a lot of my teachers have left. I feel like when I see all the students they’re so energetic and have these colorful and thriving personalities. My class was so different. We were shy and quiet and had a completely different experience I think.”
After graduation, Kelly attended the University of California, Riverside and was able to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics within the span of three years. She is currently on track to complete her teaching credential within the year and has had the opportunity to be a student teacher for the duration of the program. After this, the SOAR Alum plans to come back to the Antelope Valley, where she hopes to become a middle school or high school teacher.
For SOAR students in the beginning or middle of their high school careers, attending a UC or CSU may seem like an abstract thing, a dream always nudged to the side for a later time. A lot of the time, high schoolers have a lot of expectations about what college life should be like and they are not always true. When asked if UC Riverside had lived up to her expectations, Perez thought for a moment. “As my first reaction, no. While SOAR does a great job at preparing us by getting credits, classes at AVC are nothing compared to university. There are bigger class sizes and more work and a lot of research papers,” she stated.
However, Kelly also commented that her college experience changed a lot because of the opportunities presented to her at SOAR. Entering the university with her AA, she got to experience different aspects of freshman and sophomore life at the same time, as she got the full first-year experience, but ended up jumping into more rigorous coursework from the start. Also, being able to finish her Bachelor’s degree in three years saved her a lot of time and money.
Although college can be a stressful time in life, it’s also a time for exploration and fun. On a daily basis, you can find Kelly riding her scooter around campus, eating at the food court, going to classes, and attending club meetings at night, including Latino Union, Roterac, and a few salsa dancing classes. In her spare time, Kelly likes to get Boba and spend time with her friends. “[Riverside] is definitely living up to its name,” Kelly said with a smile, “It’s obviously not the best UC, but it’s a really diverse campus, has community based groups, and a lot of resources you can take advantage of while you’re there.”
While it's always fun to daydream about our futures and be excited about going to college, Kelly wanted SOAR students to know that it's okay to just enjoy the present sometimes. With a quick look around the lively classroom in front of her, Kelly exclaimed, “You know what, I'll give the same advice I gave when I came back as a freshman in college. Make sure you enjoy your experience. Even though it may not be a normal high school experience, make sure to spend as much time with friends and family.”
“Oh!” added Perez with a laugh, “And work smarter, not harder. That’s got to be my favorite piece of advice to give and I think that can really carry you through college and beyond.”
A special thank you to Kelly Perez for coming back to SOAR’s campus to talk to seniors and for taking the time out of her day to give us all a glimpse at college life!