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Extraordinary Opportunity: Nataly Vazquez Perez

Nataly Vaquez Perez sits on the steps of an NC State building

It would be easy for Nataly Vazquez Perez to dwell on what could have been. 

Last spring, like most graduating high school students around the country, she saw her senior year end without the traditional celebration. Leaving her home in Kannapolis to become an NC State freshman as the COVID-19 pandemic continued has meant finding her place in the Pack during remote learning and physical distancing.

While Vazquez Perez acknowledges the barriers students in her position face as they try to acclimate to the college experience, she has been committed to making the most of this first year and looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead. 

And as a member of the first group of 31 Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship recipients, who represent every college on campus, she sees a bigger and bolder future unfolding.

“I was worried,” she said. “I didn’t know what my financial situation was going to be. When I found out I received the Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship, I was really excited knowing I had a better opportunity to succeed.”

So far, that success has involved zeroing in on a career path. She applied to NC State with a few ideas in mind, but, as she explained, “When I got here and I was in the atmosphere, I could see something bigger ahead for me, something that I was very passionate about.” 

Now Vazquez Perez is majoring in political science and minoring in business — with an eye on applying to law school after graduation. She isn’t committing to a speciality just yet, but ultimately, she wants to make a positive impact for people.

One change inspiring another has been part of Vazquez Perez’s first year at NC State. Receiving the Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship didn’t impact only her financial situation. “It pushed me to look further and realize what opportunities are out there and what opportunities I can get,” she said.  “I see that people are investing in me so I invest in myself and my education.”

 And that investment is one that will extend far beyond her time as a student.

“Being given this opportunity to succeed and be able to have help to succeed — that’s going to change my future,” Vazquez Perez said. “I want donors to know that they’re a part of that success in a way. You’re making a big impact, no matter the size of the gift. You’re making an impact on a person, and that makes an impact on the future.” 

The initiative, launched in February 2020 as part of NC State’s Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign, is made up of both endowment and major gifts and annual gifts of all sizes, channeled together to make a larger impact.

Inspiring the next generation to give back is one way the scholarship will continue to grow. As part of the inaugural group of Extraordinary Opportunity Scholarship recipients, Vazquez Perez wants to become a donor herself one day to create similar opportunities for students. 

“I will always remember this,” she said. “I’m not going to forget about it.” 

This post was originally published in Giving News.