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A Degree Delayed But Within Reach: DCCCD Student Graduates, Celebrates

Cynthia Perez

Cynthia Perez was surprised but pleased to find out that she was closer to earning her college degree than she thought.

​Contact: Debra Dennis; 214-378-1851

For immediate release — April 28, 2017

(DALLAS) — Cynthia Perez thought that graduating from college was a longshot. But with a little encouragement and a closer look at her college transcript, she learned she was only six credit hours away from her associate degree.

The El Centro College student is on track to graduate in May — eight years after finishing high school.

“I didn’t know I was that close,” Perez said. “I thought I was about 18 hours away. I really had put it (finishing) out of my head. A college degree? Not for me. Not now. I have too much going on.”

After graduating from Skyline High School in 2009, Perez had dreams of becoming a nutritionist and enrolled in culinary classes at El Centro College.

She completed her first year and then transferred to Richland College. At both schools, she amassed a lot of college hours but had no sense of where she really wanted to land. Then her mother became ill, she exhausted her financial aid, and Perez finally quit school, convinced that a college degree was out of reach.

“I just wanted a break. I didn’t know I was so close to finishing. I just never made time to see an advisor,” said Perez, who currently works as an office manager for an automotive body shop.

A Bridge to Somewhere

When Dallas County Community College District resource expert Jourdain Southerland reached out to her last year, Perez found that some of the courses she had taken were grandfathered in for her degree.

“She was so close,” said Southerland, a marketing information and outreach specialist. “The classes she needed were online. She was motivated to come back and finish.”

Southerland works with “Stop Out,” a program funded by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to help students who have attended college but then ended their education to take on parenting duties or full-time jobs.

Southerland guided Perez through “Guided Pathways,” a community college program designed to boost student success with critical courses and to achieve other milestones.

Now, at 26, Perez has joined a legion of DCCCD students who are poised to graduate in May. She will walk across the stage on Thurs., May 11, with other El Centro graduates to receive her degree.

“I told my mom, and she was happy that I was going to school,” Perez said. “She wanted me to finish. When I told her I was going back, she didn’t react — but I could tell that she was happy. It took me so long to get a two-year degree. I’m not embarrassed. I’m still proud of myself for taking it up and finishing.”

DCCCD encourages its students to obtain a degree, certificate or credential, said Anna Mays, the district’s associate vice chancellor for educational policy for student success.

A college degree, Mays said, helps students improve their chances for finding employment or completing a four-year degree. Students who start but fail to complete their education often face a bleak future. They have a more difficult time finding steady work, and school becomes less of a priority.

“College graduates have more marketable skills. They earn higher wages, and they have higher salaries over a lifetime,” said Mays, who champions statewide initiatives to keep DCCCD students like Perez in school.

College graduates see that goals are attainable and are more likely to gain and retain employment; vote; complete a four-year degree; serve on charities and boards; and seek public office, Mays added.

The graduation ceremonies for all seven DCCCD colleges are:

Brookhaven College

• Thurs., May 11 – 7 p.m. at the Alfred J. Loos Field House, 3815 Spring Valley Road, Addison.

Cedar Valley College

• Thurs., May 11 – 7 p.m. at Inspiring Body of Christ Church, 7701 S. Westmoreland Road, Dallas.

Eastfield College

• Sat., May 6 – 4 p.m., at Curtis Culwell Center, 4999 Naaman Forest Blvd., Garland.

El Centro College

• Thurs., May 11 – 7 p.m. at Fair Park Coliseum, 1438 Coliseum Dr., Dallas.

Mountain View College

• Wed., May 10 – 7 p.m. at Inspiring Body of Christ Church, 7701 S. Westmoreland Road, Dallas.

North Lake College

• Sat., May 13 – 10 a.m. at the Alfred J. Loos Field House, 3815 Spring Valley Road, Addison.

Richland College

• Thurs., May 11 – 6 p.m. at the Curtis Culwell Center, 4999 Naaman Forest Blvd., Garland.

For more information, contact Debra Dennis in the DCCCD office of public and governmental affairs at 214-378-1851 or

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