Full of drive – that’s the best way to
describe Irvine Valley College (IVC) student Wilfredo Perez. The 22-year-old
Perez chases after his goals with enthusiasm and a laser focus. It’s that kind
of effort that went into researching his community college options. He wanted a
college where he could take courses that meet the general educational
requirements for a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of
California, Irvine (UCI).
Perez recalls what initially stood out about
IVC was the staff’s attentiveness.
“During my search for the right community college, I
noticed that IVC was the most responsive and would always be available to
answer any questions,” Perez said. “I felt that IVC would be the right place
for me since the staff clearly prioritized helping their students, and this let
me know that it would be the place that would allow me to grow the most.”
Perez had been attending UCI, where he enrolled after
graduating high school in San Diego in 2017. He had planned to triple major in
political science, economics and psychology. Two years into his studies,
Perez’s passion waned. He discovered mechanical engineering and knew that was
his calling and decided to switch majors. Perez said because UCI students who
enter directly from high school are expected to complete all degree
requirements within five years, he was encouraged to transfer to a community
college to take courses to satisfy the general educational requirements for his
new major. Then he could transfer back to UCI to earn his degree in mechanical
That’s when the community
college search began, and Perez picked IVC. In the transition, Perez found
himself out of housing and work (he had worked on-campus jobs at UCI), and
without a car to get around or personal computer on which to do his school
work. With his parents and siblings living in Mexico, Perez had no family nearby
to help. One of his friends let him stay at his apartment until he could get on
Perez had a bike to get
around – rain or shine – and on the first day of classes, he pounded the
pavement at a local shopping center, inquiring about job opportunities at store
after store. He landed a 30-hour-a-week job at Dunkin’ Donuts, which came with a
steady paycheck and a 4 a.m. wake-up call six days a week. To get around his
lack of a personal computer, Perez spent long evenings at the IVC library using
the computers to complete his course assignments until he could afford to buy
his own computer.
During this challenging
time, Perez recalls how his IVC professors were a major help, passing on
information about internships and scholarships, as well as professional advice.
In July 2020, IVC awarded him a National Science Foundation S-STEM scholarship,
which is based on financial need, and that has helped cover some of his school
“They really reached out to
me and wanted to help me out,” Perez said. “To be honest, if it weren’t for all
the IVC staff and all my professors, I wouldn’t be where I’m currently at.”
It was engineering Professor
Dr. Zahra Noroozi who gave him a lead on an internship at a medical technology
company, where he landed a position as a mechanical engineering intern. Dr.
Noroozi described Perez as the student every instructor hopes to have in their classroom.
“He has such a
positive attitude, and he truly appreciates every opportunity that life
presents to him,” she said. “He is also perseverant and hardworking. I
feel grateful that I had a role in shaping his future, which will undoubtedly
Perez worked as an intern
for three months before the company had to let him go due to the pandemic. Until
he finds another job in his field, he’s honing his business skills and paying
his bills by purchasing and re-selling items through eBay and Facebook
When he’s not in
class, studying or working, Perez is constantly looking for opportunities to expand
his knowledge and skills. He attended the 3D EXPERIENCE World 2021 virtual
event and is taking an automotive internal combustion course online for an
upcoming project. He recently purchased a 3D printer to explore manufacturing
and is pursuing industry certifications for SolidWorks, a solid modeling
computer-aided design and computer-aided engineering computer program.
He plans to earn an
associate degree in science for the three semesters of courses he has taken at
IVC. His experience at the college has prompted him to expand his aspirations:
While his original plan was to return to UCI for a degree in mechanical
engineering, Perez has applied to MIT for the fall semester.
trying my luck in applying to MIT since their engineering program is renowned,
as well as their ability to help their entrepreneur students carry out their
projects, transforming ideas into successful businesses,” Perez said.
He said he owes
much of his success to his IVC professors who have and continue to help him
with academic advice and opportunities to improve academically and
“The IVC faculty enabled me to become stronger
and reach new heights,” he said.
more about IVC’s School of Integrated Design, Engineering and Automation.