For a few weeks, Tyler Junior College May graduate Cruz Perez had been awaiting an important email.
Last Monday, after putting gas in his car, he hopped back in the driver’s seat, checked his phone, and there it was: an email from Baylor University, offering him a full scholarship.
“I immediately called my mom at work, and she just started crying,” he said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Since 1989, TJC and Baylor have had an agreement in which one TJC Presidential Honors graduate per year can transfer to Baylor on a full, two-year scholarship.
After graduating from Robert E. Lee High School in 2018, Perez said he didn’t feel ready for a big university, so he stayed home and went to TJC.
“TJC was really a great decision for me,” he said. “I grew and learned so much here. More than just academics, I learned how to listen to different points of view that helped me to form my own thoughts and opinions.”
At TJC, Perez majored in general studies. He was a member of the TJC Presidential Honors Program and Alpha Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa and served as a Student Senate representative.
He was an honors capstone scholar and, in his freshman year, was selected to present his research at Stephen F. Austin State University. He participated in the PTK Adopt a Highway and Adopt a Spot programs to help beautify the campus and community.
He counts Dave Funk, Presidential Honors director, as one of his mentors and friends.
“Mr. Funk cares about everyone,” Perez said. “He will go out of his way to ask how you’re doing and what’s going on in your life. We will definitely keep in touch.”
Funk said, “I love that kid. Trying to put it into words is hard. Cruz is an authentic, caring person who spends a lot of time giving to other people. I am so pleased he was awarded this scholarship. It’s going to make his dream of going to Baylor a reality.”
In addition to the Baylor transfer scholarship, Perez also received the TJC Presidential Scholarship, the Hunt and Dawson Family Baylor Annual Scholarship, and the Rotary Young Citizens Award.
Outside of campus, Perez works at the local Honda dealership and serves as the executive music director and teaches Sunday school at Life Church, where he also volunteers to clean the church and maintain the churchyard.
At Baylor, he will major in political science and hopes to attend law school.
He said he’s visited the campus a few times and already has a few friends there, including Donte Wilkerson, who was last year’s Baylor transfer scholarship recipient from TJC.
“I’m excited about what’s ahead and appreciate my start here,” Perez said. “Eventually, I hope to be able to give back by creating a scholarship at TJC, so I can help others the way people helped me when I was here.”