When Melissa Pereira's mother knew that she was going to die from cancer, she made Melissa's aunts promise her one thing: that Melissa would go to college.
Nearly a decade later, Pereira is fulfilling her mother's wishes with admirable zest and vigor. Though Pereira describes herself as a very average high school student, she has found a new drive at Aims Community College.
"In high school, I took education for granted," Pereira said. "I finally opened my eyes to all of the opportunities here. You’re improving your life by going to college and giving yourself more opportunities to explore the world."
Paying for school was a huge challenge for Pereira, as her grandparents -- who took in her and her two brothers after her mother died -- are not wealthy people. She found a long list of scholarships available through the Aims Foundation, the Aims Financial Aid department and other independent sources. Pereira now has her sights set on becoming a nurse.
"When my mom was in the hospital, I think it made me realize how important it is to have people to help you," she said. "It made me want to be one of those people."
So far, Pereira’s college accomplishments have been stellar. She proudly offers to share her GPA so far at Aims.
"I have a 4.0," she volunteered before breaking into a beaming smile. "My mom didn't get the opportunity to go to college, so it's a motivation for me to do it and make her proud."