Perez, a first-generation college student and part of the Posse Program, was also chosen for the Pathways Internship Program her sophomore year. Mentors from Arts & Sciences Career Development helped her prepare and apply for about 40 internships.
“I saw an internship listing for the U.S. Supreme Court and thought ‘well that would be fun, but I’ll never get that’,” she said. She applied anyway, following her career counselor’s advice to “be bold” and Perez spent her summer at the high court.
After college, as Perez looked for a position to take before law school, she remembered those lessons and applied for numerous posts, including a paralegal job in the Department of Justice, a position that usually goes to law students.
“It was really nerve-wracking, wondering what I should do, but I had the confidence to apply and interview for a lot of different positions,” she said.
Now in her second year with the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, Perez has sifted through evidence, prepared court documents and trial graphics and traveled around the country to assist trial teams, assisting attorneys during their presentations.
“I’ve been able to see every stage of an investigation,” she said. “And I’ve learned that there are aspects of being a lawyer that I didn’t know came with the job. During the trial preparation, you get a lot of one-on-one mentorship with the attorneys, so that has been great.”
Perez said her Cornell training has come into play as she thinks of every case like a class, and every task within the case as an assignment.
“I was really involved at Cornell, so I know how to stay organized and juggle multiple things,” she said. “Plus, the disciplines I studied – government, history and all of my humanities classes — helped me develop my writing so I’m not afraid to try out a new writing style.”
Perez has also taken advantage of the division’s robust training program and attended office seminars for the paralegals, where attorneys with other backgrounds, such as education and civil rights, have visited to talk about their careers and their pathways.
“They’re helping me figure out what area of law I would like to enter,” she said.
Though she’s left Cornell, Perez continues to mentor undergrads through the A&S Career Development office, helping them prepare for interviews.
“Part of my job as a first-gen student is to help other first-gens,” she said. “I tell them to talk to their professors and anyone else who might help them find their next opportunity. I want to make it easier for other people.”