Student Spotlight: Rigoberto Perez Hernandez '17

March 3, 2016

Coming from an area that perpetuated gang violence and substance abuse, attending college –especially an Ivy League institution –seemed nothing more but an intangible dream. However, thanks to a plethora of college bound programs including The Phoenix Scholars, a Stanford University program that provides pro-bono college counseling and mentorship to low-income, first-generation, and/or minority students, I was introduced and encouraged to immerse myself even more into the world of academia and service to the community. Because of my dedication to pursue a higher education and the continued support from my mentors, I applied to Cornell University and was ultimately accepted into the College of Human Ecology majoring in Human Biology, Health, and Society.

Since the advent of my undergraduate career as a Pre-Freshman Summer Program (PSP) scholar, I have aspired to use my education as a means of improving the lives of others. As a Human Biology, Health, and Society major, I have also continued to foster my passion for medicine and advocacy. Under the guidance of James A. Perkins endowed Professor, Dr. Eloy Rodriguez,  I have conducted research involving various pharmacognosy and analytical techniques (GCMS and LCMS) to isolate, purify, and carry out a wide-array of biological assays to determine if compounds are active against breast cancer and leukemia. Moreover, my colleagues and I were able to bring the Science Organization of Latinos (SOL) into fruition in order to advance the tenure, professional development, and representation of Latinas/os in the sciences. From planning the East Coast Chicana/o Student Forum (ECCSF) Conference with M.E.Ch.A. to attending the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Conference near the beautiful Miami beaches, I have taken full advantage of all the opportunities available at Cornell.

During the summer before my sophomore year, I attended a workshop at the New York Academy of Medicine where I was able to publish a paper through the Institute of Medicine that accentuates the importance of youth in improving community conditions for health. This past summer, I was selected to help provide patient care at the Jewish Hospital Medical Center and conduct cancer research under the University of Louisville Cancer Education Program in Louisville, KY. These opportunities have allowed me to identify the health disparities and the need for more representation of minority healthcare professionals. As an aspiring physician, I plan to establish linkages between organizations across communities in order to support future generations of scholars.

While my experience at Cornell has been both rewarding and enriching, my successes could not have been possible without the support of my friends, mentors, and my community. My friends have always been there for me, through thick and thin. Every time I walk into the Latino Studies Program Office, I am welcomed with much love and understanding. My college advisors have always provided me with the proper guidance to navigate through the academic rigors of the pre-medical track. As a rising senior, I have had no doubt that my initial decision to attend an “institution where any person can find instruction in any study” has provided me with the tools necessary to advance the progress of my people.

Activities:  La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. (April 2014 –Present); New York State Latino Leadership Summit (LLS) Planning Committee (September 2015 –Present); OADI Pre-Professional Programs (P3) (September 2015 –Present); Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Conference Delegate (October 2015); Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A.) (September 2013 –Present); ALANA Intercultural Board (February 2014 –April 2015); Minority Association of Premedical Students (MAPS) (September 2013 –Present); Latino Ivy League Conference Delegate (November 2013); National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) (March 2015 –Present); Dr. Eloy Rodriguez Laboratory (Independent Research) (January 2015 –August 2015)



Picture of Rigo Perez