For MacArthur High School senior Gabriel Perez Gines, his high school experiences, the opportunities that await him after graduation and the people who have surrounded him through it all are blessings.

He anxiously awaits his next adventure at the University of Texas at Austin – his dream school – where he plans to major in neuroscience on the pre-med track. He hopes to one day be a family doctor. 

“I’m excited. I’ve been wanting to do this for so long, and going to my dream school is a blessing,” he says. “I am really excited to meet new people, and find a new group and turn the next page of life.”

But before he begins his next chapter, he reflects on his time as a Cardinal and the blessings that came throughout his high school experience.

“Senior year made me realize all of the things I am grateful for at this school that I didn’t appreciate my freshman, sophomore and junior years,” he says. “ I’m going to miss the memories, my friends and all of my teachers I had. Senior year gone by so fast but I feel like I’ve made so many great memories at the same time.”

Perez Gines served as tennis team captain and the team’s top boy player. Although he only played for two years, he garnered valuable experience and created many of his greatest memories with friends through his involvement with the sport.

“There are so many great memories, but if I had to pick one – there’s something called a Universal Tennis Ranking (UTR). Mine is a 3, on a scale of 1 to 16.5. I played someone in the MacArthur Tournament at the Four Seasons who was double my ranking, and I beat him 8-6,” he recalls. “He is an amazing player. I was genuinely surprised. I walked into the match negatively, not in the right headspace but my coach set me straight and helped me get out of my head. That is the best tennis I’ve ever played. It was so rewarding. I won fourth place that tournament. I was very proud of myself. It was a very great win especially since I had my team watching me.”

He describes his tennis teammates as a close-knit group motivated by an encouraging coach. 

“We all support each other. We’re the only team at tournaments that screams and yells at each other to try to motivate each other,” he says. “Tennis is such a gentleman’s game, where you’re supposed to be silent. But we bend the rules a little bit. We’re very passionate, and we absolutely support each other. We are each other’s biggest cheerleaders. When we’re able to watch each other, we’re there, front-row seats. And our coach (Matthew Matus) is right there, helping us get right mentally so we can focus on the tennis match and play the best that we can.”

In addition to tennis, he is involved in school as a student council member and senior class senator.

“Not only do I get the position of helping plan senior class events, it’s also a great opportunity to make connections and make friends,” he says. “Without this involvement, I wouldn’t have been as connected and have the network of friends that I have. It’s honestly such a blessing.”

He specifically singles out student council advisor Emily Towler for her influence.

“She’s such an easy person to look up to,” he says. “Her work ethic and the way she does all these things at one time for this school is so admirable. She leads senior class officers, student council, handles all the pep rallies, senior breakfast; she handles so many things. It’s such a sight to see her working, and she kills it every single time. Being a part of that with her motivates me to keep on pushing, keep on striving for what I’m going for.”

Perez Gines has also enrolled in a rigorous academic schedule every year since the beginning of his high school career – a decision that he says set the trajectory for his success.

“I’m so glad I focused my freshman and sophomore years,” he says. “I had no idea what to expect. But my parents kept me straight, and they taught me to always focus on academics first, and that’s what brought me to this opportunity.”

Now he plans to fully embrace the opportunities presented at UT Austin, where he will room with his stepbrother, Omar Carrasco, a senior at Trinity High School in Euless.

“We’re going to UT together, we’re rooming together, we’re majoring in the same thing, and it’s going to be amazing,” he says. “I’m very excited about that.”

Through it all, he is driven by one person – his mom, Carmen Perez, who immigrated to Texas from Puerto Rico when she was 23 knowing no English. 

“Not knowing a drop off English, she went into sales and worked her tail off and did amazing,” he says. “Without her sacrifices, we would be in a province that is not in the best of situations. And she did this all for my opportunities and for her success as well. The way she stays focused and pushes through adversity is really admirable. She has made me the person I am today. I owe who I am and who I will become all to her.”