“Ever since I was little, the dream was to graduate from college,” she said.
This month, Pereira fulfills that dream as she graduates from Southeast Missouri State University with her Bachelor of Arts in communication studies.
“I am beyond excited to have reached this point in my life and thankful to have pursued my degree at Southeast,” she said.
Pereira chose Southeast because it felt like a home away from home.
“I wanted a university that had small class sizes so that I could meet my professors,” she said. “I chose Southeast because I knew it was where I was meant to go.”
Southeast provided her leadership and personal growth opportunities. She’s been a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority, Campus Outreach, the Collegiate Communication Organization and a student employee at Textbook Rental.
While at Southeast, Pereira was also able to embrace her Latina heritage.
“Being a minority, it can be easy to conform to your environment in order to make your surroundings comfortable,” she said. “Although I was participating in a lot of activities on campus, I always felt homesick because I wasn’t around my culture, my family, my roots. Then I heard Dr. (Carlos) Vargas (Southeast President) speak and he mentioned being a proud Mexican, and I wanted to be in that position where I could be a proud myself.”
She joined Southeast’s Student Organization of Latinos (SOL) and the Latina Girl Squad.
“SOL is not just for Latinos but for any student, many Spanish minors and majors participated in this, and I loved seeing different cultures meshing together to celebrate Hispanic culture,” she said. “The Latina Girl Squad is the home away from home group. Living in a predominately Caucasian environment, having a group of women that share the same cultures was a huge turning point for me. I entered in as a freshmen with only two other Latino friends. Now, four years into Southeast and I have a ‘squad.’ The beauty of this friend group, besides just being close friends, was we were all students pursuing degrees, workings jobs and speaking Spanish.”
Attending a university that cared for its students and provided a supportive and diverse community, allowed her to fulfill her higher education dreams, Pereira said.
“That’s what I tell potential students and families — don’t let the fear of not finding a community hold you back from succeeding at Southeast,” she said. “You can be the change that Southeast needs, and I know that there is a community awaiting your arrival. You culture is not forgotten at Southeast.”
Throughout her time at Southeast, Pereira felt she had the support of friends, faculty and staff, even when she was unsure about her career path.
“I realized that I appreciated communicating and meeting people. A friend told me about her major in communication studies. I met with the department chair and I was convinced,” she said. “My professors did an incredible job in encouraging us to use our resources on campus. Career Services has been a huge blessing in helping me in all aspects of preparing for the future.”
After completing her degree, Pereira plans to work as a community manager in the business industry.
“It’s always exciting to apply what you learn in a classroom,” she said. “I have loved every aspect of my degree, and it’s exciting to know I will be working in that same field I have studied for the past four years.”
She said she also hopes to one day return to academia to earn her graduate and doctoral degrees, become a college professor and pass on her experiences and knowledge to the next generation of college students.