• 91°

Port Arthur Health Department honors high school graduate Janine Perez

The Port Arthur Health Department’s first full time high school intern Janine Perez set the bar high for future students.

Port Arthur Health Department workers released balloons as well wishes for intern Janine Perez.

Health Department employees threw the Woodrow Wilson Early College High School student a surprise party Thursday ahead of this weekend’s commencement ceremony.

Port Arthur Health Department Director Judith Smith said it was more than deserved.

“Janine came to us on Jan. 23,” she said. “She was coming in to just learn public health as a student intern. We had her working at the front desk, registering clients as they come in for immunizations and it quickly went to the left at the beginning of March with COVID-19.

“We all took off to the airport and every time I came back in to check up, she was just really working hard. To see her come in and on the frontline, getting the results, understand it and anything they gave her to do, she did it. That’s amazing for a high school student. We wanted to just do something to show her how much we appreciate her.”

Perez said she was totally taken by surprise by the gesture.

“It caught me off guard,” she said. “I kind of expected a little something, but not anything to this extent, or this big and extravagant. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I want to thank everybody for putting in their effort in doing so. It means a lot to me. I love the environment and everybody is so sweet. I am glad I am here and have had the opportunity to be here.”

Left to right: Port Arthur Health Department Director Judith Smith, intern Janine Perez, mother Vicky Perez, and PAHD Assistant Director LaTasha Mayon.

Health Department employees, city officials, friends and family spoke a few words about the Port Arthur native.

City Manager Ron Burton said Perez has exceptional skill and work ethic.

“She has the potential to be whatever she wants to be,” he said “One of the things that matters most in life is having a good work ethic, and from day one, Ms. Judith and her staff have recognized that in her. She already has 99.9 percent of what she needs to be successful.”

Judith Smith

Janine’s mom, Vicky Perez, said it’s a real good feeling to know the things she tried to teach her are showing through.

“It’s always been good to hear good things about her,” Vicky said. “She loves being here. She loves the environment and I’m grateful that she was given the opportunity to intern here. It has shown her a lot of things and I’m proud of her.”

Port Arthur Health Department Assistant Director LaTasha Mayon left Perez with one piece of advice her father gave her: “Shoot for the sky, knowing in your heart you’ve got to reach the stars, the moon and beyond. We know you can do it.”

Perez plans to attend Lamar State College Port Arthur for a few semesters before applying to the University of Houston and Lamar University to be a crime scene technician or pharmacist.