This George Fox freshman may be young, but he’s already making a difference in his community
Most 18-year-olds might feel out of place in a room filled with vice presidents, directors and chief marketing officers. But for George Fox freshman Alex Perez, it's business as usual. After all, Perez sits side-by-side with these community leaders on the board of directors for Hacienda CDC, a nonprofit organization that develops affordable housing for low-income Latino families.
"At first I was intimidated," admits Perez, an Act Six scholar who has spent the past 12 years living with his family in Hacienda housing, but only a matter of months on its board. "I know my contribution might be small, but it has an impact at the same time."
As it turns out, Perez has quite a knack for impacting his community – and he's only getting started. Regular volunteer commitments include greeting patrons in Legacy Good Samaritan's emergency room and serving food to the homeless at the Blanchet House in northwest Portland, the latter of which really hit home.
"That was a humbling experience . . . " recalls Perez. "I saw people whose addictions took over their lives and their families and destroyed everything. I see that reflected in my family, but we didn't get to that extreme."
The oldest of five – including two special needs children – and son to a father who has long battled addiction and often wasn't present, Perez is no stranger to the effects of poverty.
"It's been challenging for me," he admits. "But I feel like God put me in those places because he wants to see me grow, and I'm very optimistic about the future. I know the Lord is going to work in wonderful ways."
For Perez – the recipient of a four-year, full-tuition Act Six scholarship – future plans include a bachelor's degree in accounting followed by a master's in business administration, inspired in part by his experience on the Hacienda CDC board.
"I saw how everything works together, how a nonprofit benefits from our contribution, and I was like 'Wow, I want to be in the business field and serve my community that way,'" he says. And while the specifics of Perez's future plans may very well change, one thing won't.
"I've known people who grew up in the same situation I did, but after they made money they left," he says. "My goal is to get an education, but go back. I'm not going to leave my people the way they are. I want to help them to make a better life."