Elaine Nevins and Mak Perez are two outstanding seniors who were selected to speak during baccalaureate commencement celebrations for the Class of 2022. Learn more about their paths to success.
Graduating from MSU is a dream come true for Nevins, who is earning her bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology.
Growing up, she played almost every single sport she could on top of going to school. In college, she was part of organizations (such as Big Sister, Little Sister and Mixed MSU, where she served as a member of the executive board), fitness groups and programs, like the MAGIC program through the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions. Also known as Maximizing Academic Growth in College, the program helps students transition from high school to college—and it is where Nevins met some of her best friends and where many of her favorite MSU memories originate.
Being busy is part of Nevins’ journey as a student and as a person. She hopes to share lessons she learned along the way with her fellow graduates this weekend.
“I feel happy when I am involved with my community,” Nevins said. “I have less stress, less anxiety. And yes, some of the things I’ve done through have made me feel stressed. I think about it this way: If I can start to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, I can keep growing. That’s what I want current and future Spartans to know. Keep on pushing. Even when you feel anxious, or even when you’re scared of failing: Push past those thoughts! You’ll be at the end sooner than you think.”
Nevins will stay close to MSU upon graduation: She’s participating in an MSU athletic training internship. Nevins hopes to pursue additional health and well-being-centric degrees, ideally at MSU, with the ultimate goal of a career focused on supporting others.
Perez is a first-generation student, and the first person in her family to compete in athletics for a school. In both areas, she’s a leader.
As a student-athlete, Perez is focused on taking the extra stride. She competes in track and field (5k and 10k) and cross country for MSU. In addition to serving on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, she has also been a member of two Big Ten Championships teams (cross country), a podium-finishing team at nationals (cross country) and has qualified for a national semifinal (track).
As a future Spartan educator, Perez is focused on being deeply involved with her community. She spends many of her free hours volunteering, including with Red Cedar Elementary, Before and After (B&A) School Child Care in the City of East Lansing and at Kalamazoo Nature Center.
She gets her motivation from her family and the communities in which she’s lived. Living in Texas and Michigan, Perez was constantly surrounded by diverse communities and experiences, and that’s part of the reason she is interested in becoming a teacher in under-resourced areas.
“I know how valued I felt when I felt represented … how I felt when my needs were being met versus when they weren’t,” Perez said. “I want to provide empathy and understanding to people who may be in similar situations. I want to show them it gets better. I want to make my younger self and my younger siblings proud.”
Upon graduation from MSU, Perez is enrolling in an accelerated program through Western Michigan University to teach in Kalamazoo schools and earn a master’s degree. In doing so, she is forgoing two years of eligibility in athletics to pursue her career in teaching.
“I can’t stand not being in the classroom,” she said. “When I’m in a school, I’m uplifted as a person and everything else gets better because of it. I’m ready to contribute to a greater purpose.”