More Than Just a Stay-at-Home-Mom
Until tragedy struck Irma Perales’ family, Irma believed she
was just a stay-at-home-mom and didn’t believe she was capable to do much more
than being a mom to her three children. Now, just over six years after that
tragedy, Perales is graduating with an associate degree and the recognition of
being a Distinguished Graduate.
Irma’s daughter, Bethany, passed away after a car accident
just after Christmas in 2007. The family was traveling in Amarillo on icy roads.
Bethany had taken her seat belt off to make sure her little brother was secure
in his car seat. It was that moment that the vehicle hit a patch of ice and
lost control, ejecting Bethany from the vehicle.
Bethany was a freshman at Baylor University where she was a
pre-business major and a member of the Leadership Living Learning Center. As a
member, she was required to take courses on leadership and participate in
community service. According to Irma, and Baylor University News after the
accident, Bethany made a huge impact during her short time at the University.
So much so, the Leadership Living and Learning Center now offers a Bethany
Perales Memorial Scholarship.
Bethany had a great laugh, a drive and determination to do
well, a big goal to be a good friend and succeed, says her mother. Her daughter
was her twin in more ways than one. Bethany’s drive, determination and the need
to help others have survived through others, and most importantly, through
Irma said after four years of grieving, she had to stop and
do something. She had to find a starting point, some direction and needed
She decided to find a campus she knew she would strive at.
That is how she found San Antonio College. In making the decision to further
her education, Irma said she was helping her family heal, because she decided
to move on and carry her daughter’s dreams with her.
Irma is now on a path to help people.
She has been studying sociology and plans to continue on that
path as well as major in psychology at Texas A&M. Her ultimate goal is to
obtain a master and doctorate degree, but until then, she aspires to be a case
manager or director at Haven for Hope.
Irma said homelessness and poverty is an ongoing problem.
These issues face even those that are trying their best to do something with
their lives, to improve themselves. She said she believes Haven will change
homelessness and she wants to help change and touch those lives the center
Help Along the Way
Through Irma’s time at SAC and her determination to get back
to school, she has had others, beside her daughter’s influence, play into her
decisions and serve as mentors. She has also made an impact on those students
with whom she has come into contact.
One of her mentors was Laura Aguilar who she said was adamant
about her going back to school. “She was an instrument in guiding me,” said
Irma. She wasn’t around to see Irma begin her new path though. Aguilar passed
away in early 2012 after her struggle with cancer.
Another mentor she said gave her some direction is Dean of
Student Affairs Emma Mendiola. Mendiola said of Irma, she will make many
contributions in her life and career. She has never been afraid of taking
leadership and has a very inquisitive mind that will take her far in whatever
she chooses, said Mendiola.
“I just helped her see the reality of job opportunities,”
said Mendiola, “And I can see her in many roles. I am proud of her,” Mendiola
said of Irma. “She has a big heart.”
Mona Aldana-Ramirez, vice president for Student and Academic
Success, said Perales is a wonderful person.
“She is a joy to know,” said Aldana-Ramirez. “This world is a
better place because of people like Irma.”
She oozes with confidence and intellect, “and I expect to
hear great things about her accomplishments after she transfers out of San
Antonio College. She is SAC Proud!”
“Watch out world,” Ramirez said of Perales.
Two years ago, this (going to SAC and graduating) seemed like
an impossibility, Perales said, but everything she has been through, and now
everything she has accomplished, has only made her stronger. These two women,
her daughter and Aguilar, have been her driving force.
“They’re the reason I am here.”
The only way to honor them – her daughter, Aguilar, and her
family – is to continue, Perales said. My daughter would be disappointed in me
if I was not doing anything.
“She taught me that, even in her short-lived life, that you
can acquire a lot of things if you set your mind to it,” Perales said of what
her daughter taught her.
Perales has had to find that perfect balance between, home
and school life. This is her new permanent reality.
“Death is not the end. It’s the beginning,” said
Perales. “I have to go forward.”