Heather Paiva Perez
"At HCC, the staff really cares about your future, where you're going, and how you get there. I had a staff member tell me I could achieve more than I thought I could, and I'm really trying for it right now. I've gone from regular classes to honors and LCs, and they're the perfect fit for me."
2017-2018 Student Senate President Heather Paiva Perez
Easthampton. Graduated from Easthampton High School in 2002.
Currently Business Administration, but I am in the process of changing over to Liberal Arts
Why the change?
Because I want to major in history when I get to a four-year college and I wasn't really listening to my instinct when I signed up for business. I thought business was the most practical application of study but as I took classes I realized it really wasn't my forte and I should just go with where my passion is, and that's history.
Do you have a favorite class or teacher at HCC?
History professor Diane Beers. She's impressive. I've taken for classes with her and every class has been interesting and deep and different from other classes I've had. I've taken U.S. Women's History and Honors History with her. I took her Learning Community course, "Lies My Teacher Told Me." This semsester I'm taking her Honors Colloquium, "Punks, Queers, Freaks and Geeks." I've been waiting for this class for a year.
Did she pique your interest in history or were you already interested in that area?
It's chicken or the egg. It's a little bit of both. I've always loved history, and I've always wanted to do something with history. Diane has taught me that there are applications for history that are practical in the real world. It's not just that you're going to major in something that is impractical that's not going to get you a job. If you're an English or a history major you can always go on to research and you can have a minor in anything and really apply yourself to different fields as you find it appropriate or find what you like.
Why did you choose HCC?
I went to a couple of other colleges first. They just didn't work out the way I wanted them to. I think I chose schools that weren't really the right match for me and what I wanted to do with my life. I stayed local, but I really didn't put as much thought into my education early in my life as I should have and ended up in schools that weren't really appropriate for me.
Were you working too?
I was also a pharmacy technician for eight years, but I didn't go to school for that. I got training on the job. I worked for CVS and they provided the training and the materials for me to take the certification tests. I worked in Easthampton, Northampton, Holyoke. My last store was Amherst. I kind of floated, where they needed hours. I wanted to get out of pharmacy really badly. It wasn't the right match for me. I took a noncredit Polish course at HCC and I got to look at the credit course catalog and saw classes that would be of interest to me. All the history courses. I thought, I could take a couple of humanity courses while taking business, and I do need a degree.
What did you find at HCC you didn't at the other schools you tried?
At HCC the staff really cares about your future, where you're going, and how you get there. I had a staff member tell me I could achieve more than I thought I could, and I'm really trying for it right now, at HCC. I've gone from regular classes to honors and LCs, and they're the perfect fit for me, and I don't see a lot of classes like that at other institutions, especially the LCs. They are incredible, and they are such an experience for students to have and they really prepare you for four-year and graduate schools.
Why did you want to get involved with student government?
Chloe Soto (Class of 2017) was in one of my classes with Diane Beers. She pulled me aside one day and said, 'You have to be on Senate.' And I never thought about student government as something I'd be into. So I took the initiative and joined and found out I really really loved it. It ignited a passion for community service and communication in me and being a voice for students and being a voice for the administration, and as the year progressed I was part of the Giving Tree committee, and I just loved being part of a community and helping to be a leader and run projects and just all the things that senate entails, and when elections came up, I put a lot of thought into it, and I just felt so much passion that maybe I should apply that to being more of a leader within the senate, so I went for it.
What else are you involved in?
I'm part of the QSA (Queer Straight Alliance) at HCC. I also work part time at Pearson, the education publishing company, as an administrative assistant in Hadley about 12 hours a week. I work in the scoring department, where they score all the teacher tests. I help organize sessions, and I do a lot of data entry. a
What's your favorite thing about HCC?
The students. The diverse population. Getting to know people from different backgrounds. It's incredible the friends I've made, the connections I've made. The people are so amazing here and so dedicated to what they do. There's a lot of potential here and it's incredibly inspiring.
What's been your most memorable or meaningful experience at HCC?
Working for the Giving Tree committee. It is so moving and you know that you've done good for people who will never know who you are. You do good for good's sake. Knowing that people had a gift for the holidays and weren't lonely. That meant a lot. It was an incredible experience
Why is education important to you?
Education is a lifelong commitment, and I can't imagine not having these resources and not being able to learn and grow as a human being. Education is power, and it's so important to me as a human being to be able to grow.
What are your plans after HCC?
I want to transfer to either Smith or Mount Holyoke College. Those are my two.
Do you have any career plans yet?
I would like to work in test development for standardized tests and textbooks. There's a lot going on with how textbooks are written. There needs to be a lot of reworking of textbooks to get people interested, particularly in history, which is my focus. There's a lot of outdated information and uninteresting information in these books, and I think if students had more interesting materials to work with and more firsthand documents there would be more of an interest in history and more of an interest in education.
PHOTO of Heather Paiva Perez by CHRIS YURKO