Melissa Pineda-Perez was visiting her extended family in Mexico when she decided to check her Virginia Tech email. When she opened it, a surprise greeted her: she was a recipient of a Beyond Boundaries Scholarship.

“I was in shock,” said Pineda-Perez, a senior in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “I was worried about the financial ramifications of school. As a low-income, first-generation student, this scholarship allowed me to focus on my academics instead of the financial burden on me and my family.”

The scholarship solidified her place at Virginia Tech, that the university valued Pineda-Perez’s contributions, her work, and her achievements all while setting her up for success as a student.

It helped her on her path to becoming a veterinarian, something she’s wanted to do from a young age.

Growing up, her parents didn’t want to get her a dog or a cat. They got her chickens instead.

“It was certainly an unconventional choice for a first pet,” Pineda-Perez said. “Aside from the eggs, I just loved having them as pets. I enjoyed observing their behavior and documenting the small changes in that behavior. Being around them and understanding their needs fueled my desire to work with animals.”

Pineda-Perez’s parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico and didn’t have pets growing up.

“Because of cultural differences, my parents didn’t know much about veterinarians,” Pineda-Perez said. “It is something I am extremely passionate about, and I’m so glad I’ve been able to work toward my goal at Virginia Tech.”

Pineda-Perez was introduced to Virginia Tech and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the 2017 Governor’s School for Agriculture, which is held each summer on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.

During the month-long academic experience, about 50 high school students experienced life as a student at Virginia Tech: living in the residence halls, eating in the dining halls, exploring the academic buildings, and the beautiful New River Valley summers.

“I had never left home before that,” Pineda-Perez said of the experience. “It was scary, but I loved waking up, going to D2, Litton-Reaves, and local farms for my specific emphasis on animal sciences.

The Governor’s School for Agriculture recently celebrated its 20th year of cultivating leaders and scientists.

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