Senior Lupe Perez walks the Decatur High School hallways greeting everyone she knows with a warm, contagious smile. It’s hard to frown in her presence; her happy spirit has changed others’ outlook on life.
“Her positive energy influences others to never give up and go after what they want to accomplish,” good friend and senior Ruby Harris said.
Perez’s happy personality conceals the struggles she’s undergone.
“I’ve been through so much, but I push it aside to focus on school and make my mom proud,” Perez said.
She was born Jan. 8, 1994, with a severe case of scoliosis. It stunted her growth, but to her, her height is one of the last things she should worry about.
“I’m still able to do things anyone else can do; it doesn’t stop me,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of surgeries throughout my life. When I go to the hospitals and see other people in worse situations than me, it has showed me how strong of a person I really am.”
One of her surgeries was at Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio to realign her spine. She said she will not have to have any more surgeries, though.
On May 27, 2011, Perez’s father, Juan Pedro Mendez, died suddenly from stage four stomach cancer.
“One day everything was fine, and then the next he was diagnosed with cancer,” she said.
Perez remained strong for her younger sister, Gaby Mendez, and her mother, Manuela Flores, during their time of loss.
“Watching him go through all of that was really hard, especially seeing him in the hospital,” she said. “I never expected to see him laying there like that.”
Her father encouraged her to persevere through any situation that was given to her.
“He always told me that there were going to be bumps in the road, but it’s going to get better,” she said. “There’s going to be points in life where you’re not going to know what you want to do, but you keep going.”
With her father’s guidance, Perez continues to stay involved in school and her studies.
“I’ve never felt obligated to do anything for anyone; I have always pushed myself to do what I want to do,” she said.
As student council president, senior photo editor and photographer for the yearbook and National Honor Society member, Perez will take any necessary measures to get the job done. She is also involved in Upward Bound and church.
“I think what keeps her going is knowing that in the end her hard work will pay off,” Harris said.
Perez joined the yearbook staff as a sophomore and worked her way up to senior photo editor. Her responsibilities include giving direction to the new photographers.
“She’s been an excellent leader in our photo department, as well as an amazing photographer,” journalism teacher Cindy Berry said.
She works to attend most games and school events to meet photo deadlines.
“Even though at times you have so much to do and so much stress, it’s important to have good quality photos for the yearbook,” Perez said.
As she starts the second half of her senior year, Perez is making plans to attend Midwestern State University and work toward a career in radiology.
“I want to work in a hospital and help others with chemotherapy treatments,” she said.
Along with the desire to give back to others, Perez wants to continue photography and travel the world.
“I want to travel to mainly take pictures of different places,” she said.
To her, life is precious, and she knows rough patches always lie ahead.
“There are a lot of situations we are placed under, but don’t complain about the little ones,” she said. “You’re going to complain about things, but you have to live with it. There are worse things than having to read 100 pages in a weekend.”