HML graduate is a Carnival Foundation scholar
Thursday, July 16, 2020
At a young age, Darwin Perez has already learned many important life lessons, among them that perseverance and guidance from good mentors will help him overcome adversity.
Perez, 18, graduated from Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High and is one of 16 students to win a fully prepaid college scholarship from the Carnival Foundation.
His journey to scholastic success began in the
Overtown neighborhood of Miami, where he attended the Paul Laurence Dunbar K-8 Center and the Heat Academy, an after-school tutoring and mentoring program for children who are considered to be at risk.
The program, sponsored by Carnival, helps students strengthen their study skills and prepare for standardized tests.
The team and the cruise ship company are connected: Micky Arison is chairman of the Carnival Corporation and managing general partner of the Miami Heat.
Another component is its School to Work Mentor Program.
During his four years in high school, Perez was partnered with Miami Heat Account Manager David Okeowo, Jr., 25.
“He talked with me once a month and gave me advice on how to do well in school and keep my grades up,” Perez said.
Perez said his senior year was difficult because he needed to improve his grades before graduation and achieve better scores on the SAT and ACT exams.
Perez’s goal was to be accepted to a college. But he also had to ace his final interviews for the scholarship.
“It was hard,” Perez said. “I really dedicated myself to work hard in school and to do well on the college entrance exams.”
Okeowo said he met Perez when he was a high school freshman, and encouraged him to focus on his grades and tests.
Okeowo said Perez has come a long way.
“When he was 14, he was extremely shy and quiet,” Okeowo said. “Now at 18, he has grown into a man who’s very confident, and a man who will be successful in life, because he takes his studies seriously.”
Each month during the school year, Carnival scholars would visit their mentors at work, where they would receive advice about careers.
“The program helped me become a better person and a better student,” said Perez. “The tutors and mentors played a big role in my life.”
Like the other scholars, Perez was required to finish high school with at least a 3.1 GPA and score well on his exams.
Another prize that came with the scholarship was a laptop computer, from the Carnival Foundation and Dell.
Perez said he plans to enroll at Florida International University and study business administration.
He said he’ll be the first person in his family to attend college.
Perez said he was raised by his grandparents, who
were overwhelmed when he won the scholarship.
“They were proud of me and what I had accomplished,” Perez said. “They cried, as they saw me grow from a kid into a young teen, with goals to change up my future.”