WINONA LAKE – When Gracie Perez moved to Texas at age 15, she didn’t know any English outside of the words “yes” and “no.” Stepping into a new school, a new language, and a new country all at once felt like a mountain too big for a teenager to climb. At her Catholic high school in Mexico, she had proven to be a hard worker and hoped to become a nurse in the future. Now, just finishing high school seemed like an impossible feat.
Two years later, Gracie graduated and the next mountain stood before her. How would she go to college? She had no clue how the process worked or where to even start. No one was there to mentor her along the way. Unlike many of her classmates, she didn’t have a parent who graduated from college to ease her mind and show her the ropes. Putting a cork in her dreams, Gracie applied to work at a local restaurant.
Eventually, Gracie got married, started having kids, and moved to Warsaw, Indiana. She got a job at Lake City Bank where she worked as a Branch Manager for nine years. Gracie enjoyed working with her clients and getting to hear about their lives, but she remembers a trying time period at work where she opened accounts for graduate after graduate. It felt like an endless stream of young 20-somethings who had just graduated from college and landed their dream jobs.
Gracie remembers thinking, “These young people are advancing in their lives and their careers, and here I still haven’t taken any steps toward my dream.” In response, Gracie channeled the same gumption and tenacity that helped her finish high school and purposed to climb the next mountain before her: going to college as a full-time employee, full-time mom, and full-time wife.
This time, Gracie had a specific plan in mind; “GOAL at Grace College was my Goal,” stated Gracie.
She first registered for courses at Ivy Tech, and then transferred to Indiana Tech. During those two years, she always knew that Grace’s GOAL Program, a degree completion program for adults, was where she would land.
“Grace College was amazing,” said Gracie, “I will forever be grateful for the education that GOAL provided for me and my family.”
Gracie reflects on her days in the GOAL program with delight. For her, it was a redeemed high school experience–one where she could speak the language, banter with her classmates and feel a sense of competency. She referred to her cohort as “the highschool friends I never had.”
In May of 2016, Gracie walked across the stage a college graduate. The Perez family members are huge supporters of Grace College to this day. Her 11-year-old daughter regularly wears her mom’s old Grace t-shirts, and there’s no doubt what she’ll have on for National College Colors Day each year.
Having a degree propelled Gracie into finally realizing her dream to help people own a home. Right after graduation, she began applying for jobs with mortgage companies and within three months, Gracie was moving her family back down to Dallas, TX for a position as a Mortgage Loan Originator. She approaches every workday with passion and zeal, because as she put it, “Every day I get to do what I love.”
Today Gracie is a mentor to others, something that she was without as a 15-year-old. An advocate for cross-fit, self-care, and perseverance, Gracie’s story is one that motivates and inspires others to never give up. Looking back on her story, she knows without a doubt that Grace was where she was meant to be. Gracie at Grace–a constant reminder of God’s never-ending, never-failing grace in her life.
Grace to try. Grace to persevere. Grace to dream. And Grace for Gracie to thrive!