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Fast-track to success: The journey to a degree at 19

Christian Perez, Marshall University Class of 2024
For Marshall University alumnus Christian Perez, his journey toward a career in finance began when he was 15, influenced by his best friend, Isaac McNeely. Isaac would show up to high school at 6 a.m. to shoot around before the school day started to train towards his goal of becoming a Division I athlete. Motivated by Isaac’s success, Christian was inspired to find is own path—ultimately leading him to graduate from Marshall at age 19.

Watching Isaac’s dedication to basketball, Christian was inspired to find his own path. Christian tried out for the high school basketball and baseball teams but was cut from both. His mother encouraged him to find something productive to do, leading him to work at Rocas Mexican Grill in Cross Lanes, West Virginia.

Working at the restaurant was a pivotal experience for Christian—it instilled in him a strong work ethic and introduced him to the world of finance. One night, he overheard customers discussing dividends and it piqued his interest. This marked the beginning of his passion for finance.

Marshall University President Brad D. Smith with Christian Perez

His commitment to his job and his studies set him apart, and he began taking dual credit classes through Marshall’s Herd Academy to graduate from college ahead of schedule. By the time he graduated from high school, he completed a year’s worth of college credits.

His hard work paid off when he secured an internship at City National Bank at the age of 18. Christian impressed his employers with his knowledge and dedication.

Christian’s determination and drive led to a series of incredible networking opportunities. He met influential mentors, including the Marshall University President Brad D. Smith, First Lady of Marshall University Alys Smith, Merrill Lynch Bank of America Financial Advisor Todd Watts, Garlow Insurance Agency Owner Philip Garlow, the CEO of City National Bank Charles Hageboeck. These connections provided him with valuable guidance and continue to open doors to further opportunities.

One of the most significant moments in Christian’s Marshall journey was meeting Chris Gardner, the inspiration behind the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness.”

After his freshman year, Christian took summer courses to continue his goal of graduating early. And then, a mere two years after graduating from Poca High School, in the spring of 2024, Christian walked across the stage at Marshall Health Arena, earning his bachelor’s of business administration in finance.

“Marshall gives you the opportunity, but you have to utilize it.” - Christian Perez

Christian’s efforts culminated in securing a job offer from Bank of America as a financial advisor in Charleston. He continues to work toward his master’s in business administration at Marshall, with plans to complete it by age 20.

“Marshall gives you the opportunity, but you have to utilize it,” he said.

His ultimate goal is not just to achieve financial success but to be a leader who motivates and inspires others. He dreams of owning his own business and making a positive impact on his employees and community.

Chris Gardner with Christian Perez

“If I can talk to a room and with 10 people in it and motivate one, you know, that just gets me going,” he said.

“I’m just blessed with great parents and I’m going to try to spend my whole life trying to repay them. I tell people all the time I’m working so my parents don’t have to one day,” - Christian Perez

Throughout his journey, Christian has faced numerous challenges, including doubt from others and the need to balance multiple responsibilities. However, he has consistently overcome these obstacles with grit and determination.

His dedication to his family, his mentors, and his aspirations set him on a path to continued success. As he moves forward in his career, he remains committed to giving back and helping others achieve their dreams.

Christian is a first-generation college student and said taking classes through the Herd Academy dual-credit classes has lessened the financial burden of college.

“I’m just blessed with great parents and I’m going to try to spend my whole life trying to repay them. I tell people all the time I’m working so my parents don’t have to one day,” he said.