Family is always top-of-mind for student pharmacist America-Nicole Perez, Class of 2026 – whether it’s her immediate family in Summerville, South Carolina, or her large, extended family in Guatemala. Their support drives her to reach further and dream bigger.
As a first-generation college student, she recognizes that providing the highest level
of care for all means taking extra steps to ensure understanding between patients
and health professionals. In celebration of National First-Generation College Student Week, America shared some of her journey with us.
First, tell us a bit about yourself:
My name is America-Nicole Perez, and I’m a P2 student this year. I'm from Summerville, South Carolina, and have four siblings that still live in my hometown. When I’m not working or at school, I like to binge-watch TV shows and hang out with my roommates. I also have really enjoyed traveling during school breaks. I’m half-Guatemalan; my dad immigrated here in the early 2000’s. I have over 100 cousins on my dad’s side in Guatemala!
Where did you draw inspiration for attending college and why did you choose the University of South Carolina?
It may sound cliché, but my parents are definitely the reason I wanted to attend college. My mom and dad worked insanely hard to build themselves from the ground up. I know that they never got the opportunity to go to college after school, so for me it’s something I knew I was going to do after high school.
I chose USC after I received early-acceptance in the winter of 2020. I toured the campus with my parents, and we loved everything about it. USC was the acceptance we were all waiting for, and it was such a special moment to share with my parents. USC is also close enough to home that I can spend weekends with my family!
What sparked your interest in pursuing pharmacy?
My interest in pharmacy was sparked by just being curious about the field. I knew I wanted to go into health care and I wanted to have those patient interactions. Pharmacists are so important to the patient care process and I had a great respect for what they do. I think that universal understanding of medications and disease states can impact a patient’s willingness to be adherent, and I wanted to be a part of that.
What has kept you motivated and helped you succeed during your academic journey?
I think the support I have at school and home has helped me succeed in pharmacy school. I have such a great group of people that make it known they are always there for me. I think graduation is also a huge motivation for me. I know the day I walk across that stage, my parents will see their success through me. The USC College of Pharmacy also has a great group of faculty and professors that help us succeed academically. I am grateful for how available they make themselves to assist us in any way possible.
How does being first-generation impact your perspective as a future health care provider?
I think the biggest impact that being first-generation has on my future as a health care provider is making sure patients understand. My dad spoke no English when he got to this country; imagine what it would have looked like for him to try to pick up a new prescription. He most likely wouldn’t have been able to understand what he was taking or why. That is what impacts me. I want to be able to provide the highest level of care to ALL patients. I want every patient to understand the 'why' and 'how' of their medications. If I can be that person in the future, I will truly have success.
Do you have advice for other first-gen students looking for support along their journey?
USC has so many opportunities to get support. Whether it’s mental health or just trying to find common ground, USC has it all for students. I joined on-campus organizations during my pre-pharmacy years like the Carolina Association of Pre-Pharmacy Students (CAPPS) and the Latino American Student Organization (LASO.) The hardest part is putting yourself out there, but I think it is also really rewarding. Remind yourself of the opportunities you have being at such a great university and who helped you get here. The reward at the end of the journey will be so worthwhile.