Alumna honored for helping students prepare for college

Alumna honored for helping students prepare for college

An alumna and former Physical Plant employee has won a university award for her service to college-bound students.

Tara Perez won the Michael R. Ferrari Award for Distinguished University Service and Leadership after she created a program that helps families get their first generation college students into universities.

Though she has left TCU to start a position elsewhere, she said she is proud the College Resource Committee will continue on without her.

“I feel it’s in good hands and needed fresh eyes and fresh energy and new ideas,” Perez said.

Perez is now an education coordinator at the community service organizaton Allied Communities of Tarrant and worked her last day as equipment manager in the grounds department at the Physical Plant on Jan. 9.

Perez said that she started working at the physical plant as a summer job but ended up staying there for eight and a half years and felt privileged to have met so many exceptional people through her TCU experience.

Perez said she was a former copy editor and copy desk chief at the Daily Skiff and worked there for five semesters.

Perez said she got the idea to create the College Resource Committee when she talked with the daughter of a person with whom she worked. She said they weren’t sure how to prepare the daughter for going to college and she came up with the idea for the program.

“It’s important for the students to imagine themselves at college,” Perez said.

The program is open to the community and TCU employees with children ranging from the sixth grade to the community college level. It gives them information about what classes to take in high school, what scores to aim for on the SAT and how to connect with resources in the community, among other things, Perez said. Past programs have included events for middle school through high school students, where TCU students talk about their college experiences, Perez said.

Perez said about 200 students are in the program now and most of them stay in the program for an extended period of time because the students will follow the program throughout their high school and middle school careers. Kay Higgins, associate dean and director of student development, said Perez received the Ferrari Award, including a cash prize of $5,000, for the creation of the program. Perez said it was a huge surprise to win the award and that she felt honored the university recognized the program and its achievements.

The award was established to honor Dr. Michael R. Ferrari who was the previous chancellor of TCU, said Higgins,

Ferrari was chancellor from July 1998 to summer 2003, according to the Office of the Chancellor Web site.

Higgins said Ferrari was exceptional in his own way and was the chancellor at the time our current mission statement was developed. This is the way the board of trustees honors him, Higgins said.

Ann Louden, the chancellor’s associate for external relations and chair of the committee, said that selection process includes the committee reviewing the applications and narrowing the applicants down to three to be sent to Chancellor Victor Boschini, who ultimately decides the winner.

Boschini said Perez’s College Resource Committee educates one of the benefits on attending college.

The program is important because it is for students of the future and it embodies TCU’s mission statement,” Boschini said.

Nancy Petruso, associate vice chancellor of donor relations and member of the Ferrari Award Selection Committee, said she was impressed by the way Perez created an entire program and managed it single-handedly for four years.

Higgins said the criterion of the award requires someone to achieve something exceptional outside the specific definition of his or her job description and Perez encompassed that.

“Tara is a remarkable woman and is tireless in her activity. She embodies deep compassion, a sense of inclusion and she knows knowledge is the path to many opportunities,” Higgins said.