El Rancho High School’s Bethania Perez, Newly Appointed Student Advisory Board Member of Michelle Obama’s #BetterMakeRoom

Bethania Perez—a senior student at El Rancho High School and member of Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera—was inaugurated as 1 of 17 students nationwide to serve on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room Student Advisory Board.

During Bethania’s visit to the White House in January, she learned about the important mission she has accepted as a board member and had an opportunity to meet with like-minded students, civic leaders and be in the same room with celebrities, such as Usher. She and her fellow board members met with First Lady Michelle Obama and attended Mrs. Obama’s final speech as First Lady.

We had a chance to talk with Bethania and learn more about her experience and role as a student advisory board member…

To be part of Better Make Room’s (BMR) Student Advisory Board is a fantastic opportunity. What motivated you to apply?

I am currently a peer advisory at my school helping other students reach college, so one of El Rancho High’s student counselors thought I should apply for the Better Make Room opportunity. My parents did not reach higher education and my older brother didn’t continue to college, so I want to make a change in my family and show my parents that the hard work they put forth for us is not going to waste. I want to continue my work emphasizing how important college is for our community and that it’s a priority. I knew that Better Make Room’s Student Advisory Board would allow me to do that on a bigger level.

Tell us about when you found out your were accepted as a board member.

In early December BMR contacted me via email to tell me I passed the first round and would be scheduling a phone interview later in the week. By mid-December I received an email confirming that I was selected. I couldn’t believe it! In that email was an invitation for me to go to the White House in January for the student inauguration. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make that happen. Fortunately, Jacki Cisneros and Generation 1st Degree – Pico Rivera sponsored me to attend the inauguration. I’m so very thankful for Jacki for giving me this opportunity.

On January 6, 2017, you were in Washington, D.C. in the White House with the Better Make Room Student Advisory Board. Not many people can say that they’ve been to the White House AND hugged FLOTUS. Tell us more about that day.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and had a chance to go sight seeing on Thursday. On the morning of Friday, the 6th, I met the other student advisors and we all walked to the White House together. We entered through the east wing and had about 30 minutes to walk around. It was amazing and I couldn’t believe I was there. Then we went upstairs to hear a panel of speakers. After that session, we headed back downstairs and that’s when we got really anxious because we were all about to meet with Michelle Obama

It was a dream! She gave each of us a hug and we took a group photo. She told us that she was so proud of all of us applying to her Better Make Room program and deciding to use our voices for something bigger. This was just moments before she delivered her last speech as First Lady Michelle Obama, which we were all invited to attend and experience. In that moment, during her speech, I couldn’t believe that it was real. I’ve always watched her speeches on TV and there I was experiencing it. There was not a dry eye in the room. You could feel the emotion in the air. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I feel went by so quick, but I will always remember it

Do you feel like the experience changed you?

Mrs. Obama is such an inspiration and she made me feel more confident that I can make a difference with my voice and use my ideas to encourage others to reach higher and dream big.

What are your next steps as an advisory member?

Each month I have to set a goal for myself on how I’m going to promote higher education at El Rancho High and in the community. I’ll also contribute a blog post on the activities I create at school, and meet with my fellow board members to share ideas and support. In Spring, we’re going to have a College Signing Day, so be on the look out for news and information about that day.

We are very proud of Bethania and look forward to seeing what’s to come in the coming months as she encourages her peers and the community to #reachhigher! #BetterMakeRoom