Elisa Pérez-Arellano faced difficulty with language and cultural barriers when she immigrated at age 16 with her family to Michigan from Mexico.
She struggled with English, and said it caused other students at an area high school to bully her. Pérez-Arellano sought help from the school’s guidance counselors, persevered and continued her education at Grand Rapids Community College.
At GRCC, Pérez-Arellano excelled and realized that her passion was in social work; she enjoyed having an opportunity to help others through similar situations. She enrolled in Grand Valley’s social work program after meeting faculty members at an open house.
She will graduate in April with a master’s degree in social work. She credited her professors, particularly Salvador Lopez-Arias, with helping her achieve that goal. Her peers and faculty members nominated her for the program’s Diversity and Social Justice Award.
Currently, Pérez-Arellano works for the nonprofit organization First Steps, helping with its programs Welcome Home Baby and Children’s Healthcare Access.
Pérez-Arellano hopes to inspire others with her story. She said she would like to continue working with under-represented people.
“I want to inspire others. There are a lot of students who get discouraged and I want to deliver the message that you can do it, you just need to reach out and find the people who can help you,” Pérez-Arellano.