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Alton Chief of Police Turns His Experience Into A Degree At STC

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South Texas College alumnus and new Chief of Police for the City of Alton, Mark J. Perez, found at STC a unique opportunity to transform his years of law enforcement experience into a college degree. SYC Image
South Texas College alumnus and new Chief of Police for the City of Alton, Mark J. Perez, found at STC a unique opportunity to transform his years of law enforcement experience into a college degree. SYC Image

Texas Border Business

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By Selene Rodriguez

Recently sworn in Chief of Police for the city of Alton, Mark J. Perez, found a unique opportunity to transform his 29 years of law enforcement experience into a college degree from South Texas College.  

“I feel very grateful for the doors that have opened for me at Alton and with STC,” Perez said. “At STC, you don’t start from scratch because as a licensed police officer you have already completed 38% of the program even before you enroll. This was very motivating for me to pursue a college degree after many years out of school.”

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Born in Falfurrias to a peace officer, Perez, 47, was convinced from childhood he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and went straight to the Del Mar Regional Police Academy right after graduating high school in 1993.

“I was eager to start my career, and fortunately, I was allowed to join the academy at only 19 years old, even if it meant waiting more than a year for my state license,” he said.  “It was exactly on my 21st birthday that I started my career with the Falfurrias Police Department, later moving to the Kennedy County Sheriff’s Office.”

In 1999, already married and with a son, Perez enlisted in the Army following a lifelong dream to serve. He spent five years in the military, witnessing a radical change for the United States Armed Forces after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

“My duty was to serve as a military police officer at the base, but I was also deployed to various places such as Egypt, Turkey and Hungary,” he said. “It was after the events of 9/11 that everything changed. I was sent to Guantanamo Bay and Iraq and was fortunate to come back home in 2003 after a few close calls.” 

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Returning to law enforcement, Perez spent a few years at the Jim Hogg County Sheriff’s Office and then moved to Hidalgo County for more opportunities.

In 2018, he took on the role of Assistant Chief of Police at the Alton Police Department.

“I have immense appreciation for the community of Alton. I always knew I wanted to be part of this team and retire here. I would have never thought that it would be in this capacity,” he said.

Under the leadership of Alton’s former Chief of Police Jonathan Flores, EdD, Perez was strongly encouraged to continue his education and pursue a college degree, starting with a Certified Public Manager Course at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

“I had tried college in 2010, but I wasn’t motivated enough. Dr. Flores was a huge advocate for education and STC specifically, so he arranged for me to start the Law Enforcement Associate Degree program,” he explained. “I’m so glad I took on the opportunity because I learned a lot and got to network with many of my peers across the region.”

Through Competency-Based Education, Perez was able to use his extensive enforcement experience and his license as a peace officer to start off with 23 college credits out of the 60 needed.

“STC is a great school with a great platform. I’m really grateful to the advisors and instructors who always helped me to not give up and continue the online program,” he said. “I never had to step foot on campus to get registered and had many benefits as a veteran, it was an easy process that allowed me to obtain my degree.” 

With the opportunity to work at his own pace, only taking one or two classes a semester, Perez graduated from the program fall 2021.

“I’m extremely proud of him for following through and taking advantage of the opportunities that STC has to offer,” said STC Public Safety Programs Department Chair Victor Valdez. “Coming from the same field, I always try to make myself available to law enforcement officers seeking a degree, be flexible to help them reach deadlines and always have an answer for what they need. We want our students to succeed.” 

Inspired by his new leadership role, Perez is now ready to continue his academic journey at STC with the Bachelor of Applied Science in Organizational Leadership. 

“I’m certain that a bachelor’s degree will solidify my associate degree and will help me become a better leader,” Perez said. “I feel honored to be in this new position and will continue to serve one of the fastest growing cities in the county doing everything I can to protect it. I’m certain my education will keep me moving forward.”

For more information on STC’s Law Enforcement Associate degree program, visit southtexascollege.edu/academics/law-enforcement/ or call 956-872-4200.

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