A La Serna High School senior who has skillfully combined talent in the swimming pool and determination in the classroom, while being continually inspired by her family, is heading to the storied halls of Brown University to play water polo and pursue a degree in bio-medical engineering.
Carissa Perez is the high school’s three-time girls water polo captain and all-time leader in goals scored with 463. She is also a four-time dual sport athlete, participating in swim and qualifying for CIF in the sport freshman, sophomore and junior year with her sights set on qualifying again this year.
Her prowess in the water is matched by her academic brilliance, maintaining a 4.31 GPA.
“I am very thankful to La Serna for providing the rigorous curriculum that has given me a preview of what college life will be like,” Perez said. “I couldn’t take this next step without the support of my teachers, coaches, fellow students and especially my family.”
Perez’s parents are both first-generation Americans who have instilled a culture of high expectations, while her brother, Diego, acts as a catalyst for her athletic participation. At an early age, Perez decided to emulate Diego, taking up every sport he played, and when she was 7 years old, Perez took up swimming.
She immediately discovered her great affinity for the water, which led her to Commerce Aquatics, an internationally renowned swimming and water polo instructional facility staffed by Olympic gold medalists. Beginning with club teams, Perez honed her skills well enough to become a dominant water polo player in CIF Southern Section Division III competitions.
“Carissa is a prime example of a student athlete at La Serna High School,” LSHS girls water polo coach and English teacher Erin Verstegen said. “Perez has incredible discipline and the ability to balance a hectic schedule of studying and training with a tremendous desire for achievement.”
Perez’s discipline and balance are the results of a lifetime of looking up to her elders for guidance. Perez is particularly motivated by her mother, who was accepted to UC Berkeley but was unable to attend.
“Academically, my mom is my biggest inspiration,” Perez said. “Missing out on a UC education didn’t stop her. She worked her way through Rio Hondo College, then graduated from Cal State Los Angeles. She now works as a senior systems engineer. The values my family have impressed upon me – hard work and taking responsibility – have influenced me a great deal.”
Through her involvement with Commerce Aquatics, Perez has been able to meet and network with college recruiters, which led to a tour of Ivy League campuses. Though Harvard University was intent on bringing her on board with its program, Perez found Brown University’s smaller size and curriculum more to her liking.
Perez’s goal is to create and manufacture medical tools for surgeons and physical rehabilitation providers.
“Carissa’s ambition, drive and strong family bonds perfectly embody what Lancer spirit is all about,” Principal Ann Fitzgerald said. “Carissa stands ready to rise up to any challenge in college and her career goals. The La Serna family congratulates her on the distinguished career she has built here, and we wish her the best of luck in the future.”