Their parents instilled the values of hard work and service at a young age.

When they were kids, their mom dressed them alike.

“People thought we were twins,” the Perez sisters say.

They attended elementary school, junior high and high school together. Now they’re together again, at UC Irvine, pursuing similar career paths for similar reasons.

“Helping others is what motivates me,” says Gabriela, older by 14 months, and seeking her Doctor of Pharmacy degree to become a pharmacist.

“I really want to take care of kids,” says Cecilia, seeking her Bachelor of Science in nursing to become a pediatric nurse. “I chose this career to make a difference.”

You could say they were both raised to do so.

First-generation college students

Their parents emigrated from Mexico and dedicated their lives to providing their children with as many opportunities as possible.

“They taught us the value of hard work and how you can achieve anything if you put in the work and are dedicated,” Gabriela says.

Both sisters worked at their mom’s day-care center as teenagers, learning to juggle schoolwork with their jobs. That’s where they gained a love for helping others.

After high school, they both attended community college and transferred to UCI – ranked among the top 10 public universities in the U.S. by both Money magazine and U.S. News & World Report.

“We have had to tell ourselves many times that we do deserve to be where we are now,” says Gabriela, who earned her B.S. in chemistry at UCI in 2019. “All the hours we put into studying to pass exams and courses have shown us that we are worthy.”

Giving back to the community

The sisters already have gained real-life experience in their respective career paths.

Gabriela works in a free clinic with pharmacists, noting: “The patients always thank us for helping them understand their medications and achieve their health goals. That feels good.”

Cecilia volunteers in a local hospital, spending time in the pediatrics department. “I took that as a test to see if I really want to work with kids, and I love it,” she says.

Both are eager to give back to the community – and their parents.

“They sacrificed so much for us. We want to do what we can to give back to them,” they say, “and support them as they did us all these years.”