The 2008 graduate of Rogers (Ark.) High School knew early in life she wanted to find a career that would allow her to serve others, but she also discovered she loved the game of volleyball. After a stellar high school career, she was given the opportunity to continue playing the game as a defensive specialist with the Grizzlies and obtain a college education at Missouri State-West Plains.
Perla excelled on the court and in the classroom and was well on her way to her Associate of Arts in General Studies degree in the spring of 2010 when she had an epiphany.
"Since I was five, I had this dream of being a dentist," she explained. "Then I took chemistry and decided that wasn't the career for me. I knew I wanted to serve in some health-related field, so I prayed really hard about it. Then, one night after praying about it, I had a little revelation that I could go into nursing."
Perla discussed her idea with Grizzly Volleyball Head Coach Paula Wiedemann, who encouraged her to go for it. "She's been a huge factor in my success here," Perla said of her coach. "She has years of wisdom and led me in the right direction."
Although the deadline for applying to the fall 2010 nursing class had passed, Perla decided to stay at Missouri State-West Plains and take the courses she knew she would need for the Associate of Science in Nursing degree.
She had already taken medical terminology as part of her general studies degree in preparation for a future career in the medical field, so she focused on the other classes she would need to become a nurse – anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biomedical science, etc. All of these courses were available to her without being part of the program.
Perla also submitted her application to the nursing program in fall 2010 just to make sure she got in the following fall semester. The planning paid off, and Perla was admitted to the program in fall 2011.
"It has been everything I expected and more," Perla said of the nursing program. "The hard work that Coach Wiedemann instilled in me in volleyball really translated well into the program, and although I've been here five years, the break up of all the courses I have taken has been more beneficial than a hindrance."
Perla also has used her time outside of class wisely. In addition to serving as a resident assistant in the Grizzly House residence hall, Student Ambassador, English/Spanish tutor in the student advisement and academic support center and TRiO student support services program, and vice president of the Student Nurses Association, she has been very active in church activities at Township Line Church of West Plains. In fact, it's through her church involvement that she has discovered an outlet for her desire to serve.
"I'm going to Mexico to be a missionary nurse at an orphanage I visited with my church," she said with enthusiasm.
Perla found out about the orphanage in Vincente Guerrero, Mexico, a town about five hours south of San Diego, Calif., on the Baja Peninsula, through Township Line's affiliation with the Youth With A Mission (YWAM). She has visited the orphanage twice through YWAM while living in West Plains.
"It may sound cliché, but my ultimate goal in life is to take care of the widow, the orphan and the poor," she said. "God has blessed me tremendously and I am extremely grateful. I just want to do what I can to help people."
Perla's on track to graduate with her ASN in May and plans to take the NCLEX exam for board certification as a nurse this summer, hopefully in time for her planned move to the orphanage next fall.
Although she has seen her teammates go on to play volleyball at bigger schools, Perla doesn't regret her decision to stay in West Plains. "The volleyball program and the nursing program are amazing, but what really drove me to stay without regret are the people here. Bricks are bricks and walls are walls, but it's the people that give those bricks and walls meaning. This path has led me to where I am now, and I wouldn't change a thing."