Chris Perez, '26

Chris Perez, Music Education
By John Allen
“I saw things a 12-year-old should never see.”
Chris Perez, ’26, recalled the risks of the 2,000-mile journey he and his family faced to get to the United States from Guatemala. Enduring a two-month-long trek that included walking across the scrub-lands and desert in Mexico, Perez, at 12 years old in 2014, witnessed migrants being shot or already dead. Yet, his mother was determined to deliver her family of two sons and a daughter to the United States with the intention of providing them with a better future. With temporary visas, the family was admitted into the United States and made their way to Laverne, Okla.
Perez met challenges given his total lack of fluency with the English language, but he persevered and began to learn the language through listening and observing others. He also found a voice through instrumental music.
“I began to work with percussion and the French horn, teaching myself how to read music. I played sports while in high school, but music became my passion.”
Perez’ ability with music caught the attention of Dr. Marc Decker, at the time the assistant professor music and director of bands at Northwestern.  
“Dr. Decker told me that I could grow at Northwestern, and I considered it. By the time I finished high school, I felt like I was done with academics.”
Perez decided to go into farming full-time.
“Two months of building fence told me I needed to think about a different career,” Perez said with a smile.
The Power of Students Recruiting Students
Perez credits the influence from two of his fellow-Laverne high school friends who had found their places at Northwestern.
“Chris was one of the hardest workers on the Laverne High School football team,” said Justin Massee, a Health and Sports Science Management major set to graduate in December 2023. “No matter how tired he was or how hard he got hit, he would get up and keep going. I knew he had the work ethic to be successful. I also knew he would appreciate the environment at Northwestern; teachers and staff know the students and they want us to succeed.”
Erika Hernandez, who will also graduate in December 2023 with an elementary education degree, also saw the potential in Perez.
“When Chris was a senior at Laverne High School, I talked to him about his plans after graduation. He told me he was looking at some universities, but he wasn’t sure about attending because they were expensive. I could relate to his situation.
“I did band with Chris in high school, and I knew he had all the tools and work ethic to be successful in college. I shared my Northwestern journey with him in the hope I could encourage him in any way possible. I have had so much fun watching Chris grow here at Northwestern.”
The Power of the Donor
Perez immediately felt at home at Northwestern and in Alva. As he finished his first semester, however, the reality of not having the funds to continue his college journey became an overwhelming concern. Scholarship funds provided Perez with the support needed to continue at Northwestern.
“I am grateful for the support from our donors, as well as the support of so many individuals here on campus and in the community. The positive influence began with my mother, who instilled in me the value of working hard. This sticks with me today.”
Perez has immersed himself in the culture and is engaged on campus and off campus. He serves as a residence assistant, president of Phi Delta, section leader for the Ranger Band, volunteer at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry, and is a peer leader for Freshmen Connection. Off campus he is a member of the praise band at Alva Nazarene Church and plays at the Wesley House. He also works part-time at The Menagerie petting zoo when his schedule allows.
The instrumental music education major keeps his eyes on the future while embracing the lessons learned on his journey.
“The trek across two countries to get to American made me who I am today. Nothing comes easy, but I have much to gain by working hard.
“I want to give back to others in the same ways so much has been given to me. When I eventually teach, I hope to encourage students they way I was encouraged. I know the time will come when I can give back to Northwestern. I look forward to that.”


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