At the Bush School of Government and Public Service, public service is considered a noble calling. For Adriana Perez, it’s where she found her calling.
“Everything that I’ve learned at the Bush School has helped me define the population I want to work for, the issues that are important, and how I can serve the affected populations.”
Perez is a second-year student at the Bush School, studying nonprofit management with an interest in international humanitarian organizations. She graduated from Texas A&M in 2015 with a degree in sociology and decided to continue her education here when she found out about the Bush School’s nonprofit management program.
“It’s easy to like working in nonprofits because I’m able to do a lot of hands -on work,” said Perez. “I’ve always wanted to make a change. And working with kids… I saw that change.”
Perez spent her summer in New York City, where she worked as an intern with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an organization devoted to offering aid and support to populations facing humanitarian crises. In her role as a program management intern, Perez worked with the organization’s Refugee Youth Summer Academy (RYSA), a six-week educational program transitioning refugee youth between the ages of five and twenty-one into the New York City public school system.
“Most of these kids faced some kind of political or ethnic persecution that drove [the families] out of the country,” said Perez. “Many have come to the United States separated from their families as unaccompanied minors, and others have joined their families after years of separation.”
Many of the children Perez worked with were refugees or asylum seekers from West Africa and Latin America who had experienced gaps in their education or had never gone to school. RYSA sought to mend that gap and teach English to 118 students enrolled in the program.
“We always maintained a positive atmosphere for the students,” said Perez. “However, there were times when students would get frustrated, especially when learning a new language, but the staff was very supportive at the educational level and the social-emotional level.”
The experience of entering a new country at a young age is especially familiar to Perez, who grew up in the Houston suburb of Katy but was born in Venezuela and came to the United States when she was three. Like many of the children she worked with over the summer, Perez also learned English after coming to the US.
“I was not only assisting Hispanic students with learning English, I also served as an interpreter for Hispanic families at the IRC,” said Perez, who is bilingual. “This experience proved to me that these families are coming to the US to find opportunity, which is also what I did.”
While at the IRC, Perez utilized the program evaluation and management skills as well as the knowledge of nonprofit organizations that she gained during her first year at the Bush School. She also benefited from her experience at the Boys and Girls Club of the Brazos Valley, where she spent two years interning and volunteering and later working as a youth development and program service coordinator. While the age groups were similar, Perez noted the large differences between each group of children.
“I knew how to work with youth because of Boys and Girls Club,” said Perez, who managed volunteers and oversaw mentorship programming for kids between the ages of six and eighteen. “But this is the most difficult transition RYSA students would face, so understanding them socially and emotionally was a different experience. I was lucky to watch them flourish and reach their full potential at RYSA.”
Now in her final year at the Bush School, Perez has taken on a graduate assistant position with nonprofit program director, Dr. Will Brown. She is also involved with the Bush School Ambassador program, the school’s Public Service Organization, and she coordinated the Bush School Relay for Life team. All of these experiences have helped shape what public service means to Perez.
“Being a public servant means being a person of integrity, being adaptable and compassionate, and being a leader,” said Perez. “Public service encompasses serving those in our community and around the world who need it most.”
When she graduates in May, Perez would like to continue working with the refugee population in the education department of an international humanitarian organization. She loved her experience in New York City and would like to return. She says her IRC experience as well as her Bush School education was a pivotal force in forming her career goals.
“The program is incredible, and I owe my professors for what I have learned,” said Perez. “The Bush School has given me the skills and knowledge to be an effective leader and employee in the workplace.”