Robeson Community College

RCC Grad Tomas Perez Named 2021 Academic Excellence Winner

When Tomas Perez arrived in America eight years ago, he had no idea of the future that awaited him. He had always dreamed of going to college and getting a degree, but with limited English skills and limited funds, those dreams seemed as though they would never come true.


“I would work all day and then come home,” said Tomas who worked at Prestage Foods in St. Pauls. “That was my routine.”


Tomas thought about college often, and even tried to get into one college, but was denied admissions. But, Tomas didn’t let that rejection get him down, saying, “I always wanted to be a college student.” 


Tomas discovered Robeson Community College in 2019, and it was truly a turning point in his life.


“My first day at RCC was on August 19, 2019. It was the beginning of my dream to go to college and to pursue high-quality education.”


Tomas enrolled in the associate of science program at RCC and just two years later on May 12, 2021, he crossed the finish line as an official graduate. But on that day, not only did he receive his degree, he was also named the North Carolina Community College 2021 Academic Excellence Award winner. 


It was a major accomplishment and honor for Tomas, to say the least. Only one student from each of the 58 community colleges in North Carolina receives the award. Each winner receives a plaque and medallion in honor of their academic accomplishments. 


“I was stunned. I didn’t expect to win that. I was very surprised when they announced my name at graduation. It was very emotional for me.”


When Tomas began his academic studies, he says that could barely understand or speak English.  “Now I am here, I am a college graduate. Undeniably, RCC has been responsible for all these positives changes in my life.”


It wasn’t easy for Tomas in making the transition to becoming a college student. The language barriers at times made it very difficult for him.


“Very often I felt terribly lost trying to master a new language, socially awkward trying to make new friends, and emotionally exhausted trying to make sense of so many confusing experiences,” stated Tomas. “But, over the past two years at RCC, I truly have learned so many valuable skills. This institution has helped me strengthen my capabilities and attain my career goals.”


RCC is where Tomas not only received his degree but also where he discovered his love of science. One of his favorite classes was Anatomy and Physiology. 


“I’m very interested in health-related work,” said Tomas, who hopes to become a nurse. “I am going to transfer to Fayetteville State University in the fall and get my BSN.”


Tomas says that getting an education has helped him far beyond the classroom, saying that he now feels he “will be able to face unexpected challenges head-on.” 


He encourages others who may not know English to not give up, that they too can achieve success just as he has done. 


“Don’t just go to work and go home. That was my routine. If you want a better life, education is one of the key steps to make that happen.”