She’s the first, but she doesn’t expect to be the last.
As a first-generation college student, and non-native English speaker, Lizette Perez Flores is redefining her family’s legacy – and her own future – with her Irvine Valley College education.
Showing an aptitude for health administration, Perez Flores began her career as a pharmacy manager, a job that paid the bills but offered little in the way of advancement. Having improved her organization skills through day-to-day administrative tasks, Perez Flores had the foundation to go further, but knew she would need college to raise the bar higher.
“Although I have a lot of work experience, I always felt like I was missing a formal education,” explains Perez Flores. “I knew not having one was going to hinder my ability to keep climbing the corporate ladder.
“That’s when I decided I was going to go back to school.”
The first-generation student set out to recalculate her career path, making her college debut in IVC’s business administration program. Soon, her passion would expand beyond administrative work, as Perez Flores made a discovery that would define her future career.
After an exam in her Financial Accounting class, accounting professor Bennett Tchaikovsky told Perez Flores about the “GAP4+1 program,” a bridge program offered in partnership with California State University, Fullerton. The program streamlines the transfer process, allowing students to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years, and a master’s degree with one additional year.
Perez Flores was “intrigued.” But faced with such a commitment, her lack of experience gave her pause.
“I always thought of accounting as something that just wasn’t in my reach,” explains Perez Flores. “And I think it’s because I didn’t have any role models in that industry.”
But Tchaikovsky knew Perez Flores had the knowledge and capability to get to the next level and beyond. As one of the top-performing students in his class, he says, her dedication to the curriculum – and amazing time-management skills – are what made him believe she could thrive in the accounting program.
“Accounting is a skill and takes practice and repetition to be successful,” explains the professor. “However, it’s up to the student to put the time into the class to be successful.
“Given everything that Lizette has going on outside of the classroom, the time that she has put into learning the material is nothing short of remarkable.” As a first-generation college student, Perez Flores is setting a precedent for success. She says she’s proud to serve as a testament of her family’s hard work and sacrifice.
“As a first-gen student, I’m breaking the mold and I’m doing something that hasn’t been done within my family,” says Perez Flores. “And I’ll be the first, and I’m just proud to set an example for those who have a similar story as me.”
As she continues to blaze a new trail, Perez Flores is beginning to build a bold career. Through the GAP4+1 program, she’s collaborating with other students and networking with professionals in the accounting and business fields. Meanwhile, her membership with the Accounting Society allows her to connect with resources, find job and internship opportunities, and network with industry leaders and professionals in the field.
“I’m able to have access to social events with different accounting firms,” says Perez Flores. “I went to an EY social event that ended up becoming a summer internship for me this year!”
Perez Flores is confident that her EY internship will open to further opportunities to advance in the field. She has her sights set on her career, with goals to earn her CPA license and finish her bachelor’s at Cal State Fullerton by May 2025.
“All of these opportunities came about because of this program,” says Perez Flores. “If you’re planning on going to IVC, take advantage of the programs and learn to spot and seize those opportunities.”