Determination pays off

COSTA MESA — At 24, Mudra Perez stands out from the typical high school graduate just for her age.

But a closer look at Perez—orphaned in India, adopted by an American family— shows her age is just the tip of the iceberg.

"It feels really great," she said. "I accomplished a lot. I'm just so thankful for everything my family did for me."

Perez received her high school diploma with about a dozen fellow graduates receiving their GEDs at the Newport-Mesa Unified School District's Adult Education commencement Thursday night at the Costa Mesa Community Center.

"Adult education commencement is a very special time," said Principal Bob Nanney. "Each person you see here in the green robes has a special story… they all have overcome obstacles and should be very proud of themselves."

Perez was chosen as the commencement's student speaker to share her story of being abandoned in India and adopted at 6 by an American family.

The Newport Beach resident overcame sexual abuse, learning disabilities, the complexities of the English language and a feeling of not fitting in only to drop out of high school.

She made the wrong friends, got into alcohol, drugs and sex and landed herself in trouble with the law, she said.

"Everything I gained, I threw right down the drain," Perez said.

It wasn't until after she was married her husband, Anselmo Perez, and had her first child that she decided to go back to school.

Perez worked hard to get through school and had many supportive teachers who were understanding, especially when she was pregnant with her second child and had to drop out for a bit, said her mother Ellen Simpson, who came down from San Francisco for the ceremony.

Her social science teacher, Ilene Mountain, who knew Perez when she was younger, watched as a highly motivated Perez excelled in her class.

"It was very exciting to see her make a comeback," Mountain said.

Now, Perez has enrolled at Orange Coast College where she wants to get her AA before transferring to a four-year university to get her Bachelor's degree.

She hopes to become a teaching assistant before moving up to a preschool teacher and having her own classroom.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World