Meet Dishan Perera, Engineer Major, TRiO Graduate

Dishan Perera, engineer student, recent Sierra College graduate and former TRiO student.

Meet Dishan Perera, engineer major, recent Sierra graduate and former TRiO student. Dishan was in TRiO’s 2016-17 graduating class—our largest class so far, and with the highest overall GPA. TRiO students are the first in their families to graduate with a college degree.

Dishan overcome challenges and made a plan to graduate and transfer with TRiO's help. Find out how he succeeded at Sierra.

If you’d like to share, let us know what your name means.
Dishan is a somewhat common name in Sri Lanka, and from what I know it does not have any hidden meaning behind it. My uncle chose the name for me.
What was your major?
When I first got to Sierra, I didn't have any idea of what I wanted to do. I realized I was pretty good at mathematics, and that's what made me go into engineering. At first, I was a mechanical engineering major. Then I transferred to San Jose State University (SJSU) as a materials engineering major.
While you were at Sierra, did you do any extracurriculars or clubs?
I was part of the EOPS club at times. I was also part of the Thanksgiving food drive when I was available.
Our new tagline is “Find Your Amazing.” What is the amazing thing you found at Sierra?
The amazing thing I found at Sierra is myself. After high school, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. Everyone said to go to college, and that’s all I heard and knew.
At Sierra, through the classes I took and my life experiences, I figured out what I wanted to do in school and life. Now I am pursuing a BS at a very good school, in the heart of Silicon Valley.
What Sierra teacher was most influential to you? What did they do and how did they help you?
The most influential Sierra teacher I had was Mr. Philip Pattengale.
As I mentioned, I finally figured out what I wanted to do in college, but the classes I had to take for engineering were not easy. Some of the material was boring, and I really did not get a hands-on experience of learning engineering. At times I felt like I was only doing engineering because I was good in math, it made a lot of money and my parents wanted me to do it.
Also around the same time, I made some huge mistakes that resulted in me being incarcerated for about five years. That was a very life-changing experience, and I grew more as a person through it. This experience also put a halt to my education.
After getting released, I wanted to go back and continue my education, but I was not sure if I wanted to stay in engineering. The only reason I stuck with it is because I had already put a substantial amount of work into it.
The third semester I was back, I got to meet Professor Pattengale. I felt like he breathed life back into my education.
Even though they were challenging, I loved his classes.
Everyday Professor Pattengale came to class excited and explained the material enthusiastically in a way I could understand. His work ethic inspired me, and his hands-on learning style helped me better understand the material and what engineering is really about.
What’s your best Sierra College memory?
Graduation was most memorable at Sierra College because I felt like I accomplished what I wanted to do even through all the obstacles I faced.
How did you find out about TRiO?
I found out about TRiO through a wonderful person named Denise . I have known her since the first day I started attending Sierra. I was part of the EOPS program before my incarceration, but after I got back to Sierra, I was not able to be part of EOPS again due to some qualifications I didn't meet. She referred me to TRiO. Big shout out to Denise!
How did TRiO help you graduate from Sierra College?
I felt like TRiO was very similar to EOPS in terms of counseling guidance and academic support. It is a program that’s there to help in times of need.
The biggest thing TRiO did for me is that it kept me on track to graduate and transfer.
The three meetings you have with your counselor are priceless because that's where I got to plan my semesters out and figure out my schedule to get to SJSU.
What is unique about your experience as a TRiO student that you could share that might help another student feel like they could also achieve their goals at Sierra?
Like I mentioned earlier, I was incarcerated for about five years. So readjusting to college life and succeeding in what I wanted to achieve at Sierra was not easy. TRiO helped me to get a plan going for myself to finish the classes I needed and to graduate and transfer from Sierra.
Most students have no idea what classes they need to take to graduate or transfer, or they have a slight idea, which is not enough. And that was the case with me. The student education plan TRiO helped me create was a great road map that helped me graduate and transfer.
Another offering from TRiO that might help other students is the financial literacy learning program. As college students, our budgets are very limited. Learning how to manage our money effectively is a valuable skill that can help all throughout college and life. Unfortunately, I feel like not enough of it is taught in high school or society.
Also, TRiO has another great program in place where you get to travel to campuses you are interested in attending. I took advantage of it by visiting Sac State.
TRiO also offers tutoring help that can be very valuable to do well in your classes.
Tell us about the people at TRiO, staff and students.
Kara Perry is a wonderful counselor. She helped me make the plan that ultimately kept me on track for graduating and transferring. She is very open minded and listened to my concerns and questions.
There were some issues with my financial aid when I didn't get the correct award. It didn't matter how busy she was or how long it took, Kara helped me resolve the issue. There were a couple of times I needed to see her immediately, and she was very happy to help me during her drop-in times.
Sydney Gatson is another staff member that helped me navigate through TRiO smoothly. It didn’t matter how many appointments I had to reschedule or missed 😬, she was always there to help.
I got to interact with some of the students from TRiO during campus visits and at the TRiO office. I met students from all walks of life, and they all seemed very engaged and happy to be with the program.
The last question is a fun one: You are a new crayon: what color would you be and why?
Lol. Burgundy red, it's my favorite color.

Thanks Dishan! We wish you a ton of success at San Jose State University!

TRiO Helps Students Overcome Barriers to Higher Education

TRiO Student Support Services is a counseling program for first-generation and low-income students. TRiO offers an array of support services, information, and motivation to its students. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook and stay connected to all things TRiO!

TRiO: Learn More