Daniel Alejandro Perez Cueva
Major: International Studies
Hometown: Woodbridge, VA (born in Peru)
High School: Woodbridge/C.D. Hylton (Woodbridge, VA) - Class of 2004
Died along with Prof. Couture-Nowak and 10 other students in French class.
Audio Remembrances From NPR (visit NPR's VT Remembrance Page to listen):
Hugo Quintero: Daniel Perez Cueva 'Was a Great Friend'
Personal Remembrances From Family/Friends/Colleagues
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Newspaper Remembrance Stories
A Role Model to Emulate
Danny Perez left his homeland and attended two high schools and two community colleges before enrolling at Virginia Tech last fall.
He was barely more than a year from a college degree — a dream that fueled him since emigrating from Peru with his mother and sister in 2000 — when he was killed Monday in French class at Norris Hall.
“Anything he put his mind to, he accomplished it,” said Hugo Quintero, a close friend and former classmate at C.D. Hylton High School in Woodbridge. “He’s a guy who not only dreams, but makes dreams come true.”
Mariel Morales, Perez’s English as a Second Language instructor at Hylton, remembered him as “a bright young man” who worked hard, as did his mother, Betty Cueva, to fund his college education.
Perez attended Woodbridge High and Hylton for two years each, then spent single years at Miami Dade (Fla.) College and Northern Virginia Community College.
“This is a wonderful family here,” Morales said. “A humble family that just wanted to grow. … This tragedy happens and I don’t know what is going to happen now, but I trust that God will help them, will guide them.
“He was really a special person, let me tell you.”
In high school, Perez was an accomplished swimmer who also played tennis and ran cross-country. He was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated with honors in 2004.
“He was like a brother to me,” said Quintero, a senior at George Mason University. “I’m an only child, so he was like a brother to me.”
Perez also lavished attention on Shiloh, the year-old basset hound whose photo he set at the front of his personal profile at Facebook.com.
On Tuesday afternoon, the family home in Woodbridge was busy with relatives, friends and former teachers, Morales said.
“He still is in our hearts,” Morales said of the Hylton teachers who remembered Perez fondly, three years after his graduation. “That’s how special he was.”
Perez’s father, Flavio Perez, still lives in Peru, and spoke of the death earlier to a radio network there. He said he was trying to obtain a humanitarian visa. He is separated from Cueva.
A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Lima said the student’s father “will receive all the attention possible when he applies” for the visa.
Quintero said he always saw Perez as a role model to emulate, though they were the same age. He recalled telling Perez how honored he was to have him as a friend.
“I told him, 'Hey, when I get married, you’re going to be my best man,’ ” Quintero said. “He was like, 'Thanks, man. You too.’
“He was an amazing friend. I will never forget that.”
— Jim Reedy (Roanoke Times, 4/18/07)
York Times Profile:
Back home in Peru, Daniel Perez Cueva was a member of the national swimming federation and an accomplished student who loved to sing and dance.
But he came to the United States because he wanted a degree from an American university. He began his studies at the University of Miami and then transferred last year to Virginia Tech, where he majored in international relations.
"His goal was to finish his education at Virginia Tech because the university is very prestigious within the United States," his mother, Betty Cueva, told the Peruvian radio station RPP Noticias. "My son drew up an objective and he did everything possible to reach it."
She said her son had been in the process of looking for jobs in Washington. He was one of 30 students killed in Norris Hall on Monday morning.
"This is very difficult for me, something I cannot apprehend," Mrs. Cueva told the radio station. "I want to think that he is alive. Together my son and I went through good and bad times in this country; my children are everything to me."
Peru emigrant hoped to
Daniel Perez Cueva and his family moved from Peru to the USA six years ago.
"This is a family who has worked very hard to get where they are," said Jennie Gironda, a family friend who accompanied the mother to Blacksburg after news of her son's death.
Perez, 21, of Woodbridge, Va., was a junior studying international relations. He was interested in immigration and talked a lot about wanting to unify countries, Gironda said.
Perez, who worked his way through school, had been employed at a CVS in town. He was preparing a final presentation to the French Consulate, where he was trying to get a part-time research job. He had been taking French classes and spoke and wrote the language.
"He was always fighting to come out ahead for his mother and his family," Gironda said.
Washington Post Profile:
In 2002, Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, moved to Woodbridge from Peru, enrolled at Hylton High School and pursued the dream he and his mother shared: a university degree.
It was not to be. The junior international studies major, with a minor in French, was killed in Norris Hall.
"He was a very, very advanced student," remembered Mariel Amador Morales, his high school teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages. "A very smart young man."
Two years after arriving in the United States, Perez graduated from high school and enrolled at a community college in Miami, transferred to Northern Virginia Community College and then to Virginia Tech. This spring, said his best friend, Hugo Quintero, Perez had been interviewing with the French and Italian embassies in Washington, hoping for a summer internship.
"We both come from very humble backgrounds," Quintero said yesterday, unable to separate himself from his fallen friend and unable to think in the past tense. "We're both hardworking, trying to be the best we can. We come from abroad, and we're trying to achieve the American dream."
It was a dream Perez's mother, Betty Cueva, hoped to achieve for her children. "Her goal," Amador said yesterday, "was to put her kids through college." In Peru, Cueva had been a teacher. Here, she cleaned houses, cooked at a restaurant and ironed clothes for extra money. Her son, too, was working hard: In high school, he was a member of the National Honor Society and a swimmer.
"He was one of the best swimmers at the time from Hylton," Quintero said. "He went to regionals. He was an unthinkable athlete." He spoke both French and Italian, family friends said. "We are talking about a great human," Amador said.
Perez's father is still in Peru, and the family has been working on getting him a visa.
In the short time since Perez died, Quintero has been listening to one of their favorite songs, "Amigos," by an old Argentine rock group, Los Enanitos Verdes. The lyrics, he said, are essentially this: "No matter where the place is, you'll always have a friend in me."
As soon as Quintero heard about the shootings, "I began to call Daniel, but he wasn't picking up his phone. I tried to call again, but the call wasn't going through, and then I said, 'Maybe he's taking care of people. Maybe he's stressed out.' "
He exchanged messages with friends of Perez's and talked to Perez's older sister, who lives in Seattle, but no one had news until Perez's sister called Quintero after 10 p.m. Monday.
"I've got news about Daniel," he remembered hearing. "He didn't make it."
-- Darragh Johnson, The Washington Post
Chronicle of Higher Education Profile:
Seven years ago, Daniel Alejandro Pérez Cueva, 21, moved with his parents from Lima, Peru, to Woodbridge, Va., to pursue better opportunities than they had in their native country.
While his parents worked multiple jobs, Mr. Pérez excelled in high school. A member of the National Honor Society, he went on to Miami Dade College before transferring to Northern Virginia Community College, and then to Virginia Tech. He had enough credits to be a junior this year, and he chose to major in international relations.
Mr. Pérez’s relatives remember him as a doer.
“He was always moving, doing this or that,” says his cousin, Alejandro Albarracín Pérez. “If he wasn’t studying hard, then he was swimming. He was superactive and well rounded.”
Back in Peru, Mr. Pérez was a member of the National Swimming Federation. His coach, Pedro Belleza, says he was “always the good-natured, friendly kid.”
A high-school classmate recalls him the same way. “Daniel always had this megawatt smile that radiated wherever he was and made others around him smile,” Ashley Wheelock wrote in an e-mail message. “He was the type of person that would take the time to congratulate and encourage others.”
Mr. Pérez’s father, Flavio Pérez Parra, had to keep in touch with his son from afar after being deported to Peru because of his undocumented status. “He was a real go-getter, a wonderful son,” says the elder Mr. Pérez.
Though serious about his studies, the young Mr. Pérez enjoyed a good party and liked to dance, says his mother, Betty Cueva. “He was an extrovert,” she says. “That’s why he chose international relations.”
Mr. Pérez spoke English, Spanish, and Italian, and he was learning French. He wanted to be a diplomat. He was in French class on the morning of the shooting.
—Monica Campbell and Sara Lipka
'Already Living the American Dream'
Gifted Linguist Perez Honored as Academic, Athletic Standout
The Washington Post (Tuesday, April 24, 2007; B01)
Four days after Daniel Perez Cueva was killed last week, one of his former teachers stood at lunch, at Woodbridge's Hylton High School, and noticed that the name of the young man she'd been mourning all week was right in front of her, in letters across the back of a student's swim team T-shirt.
Without thinking, Ginette Cain reached out and brushed her fingers along Perez's name.
"I was just kind of drawn to it," she said, remembering only after it was too late that teachers are not supposed to touch students.
But the boy in the T-shirt understood. "He knew exactly what I was doing," Cain said. "He turned around and said, 'My sister swam with him.' "
Perez was memorialized last night at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Woodbridge, one of the many services and burials being held this week for the 32 students and professors shot to death eight days ago at Virginia Tech. The funeral for Reema Samaha, 18, of Chantilly was also last night.
Perez was something of a wunderkind at Hylton -- a student who spoke English as a second language yet enrolled in some of the toughest classes at school. A student who didn't disappear into the often-quiet and underinvolved ESOL crowd.
"Many times we have trouble getting ESOL students to participate in extra-curricular activities," said Cain, chair of Hylton's English for Speakers of Other Languages department.
But not Perez, who joined the tennis, cross-country and swim teams -- and swam so well that he went to regionals.
Academically, his gift seemed to be in languages, and from the beginning Cain had counseled Perez: "Go with your fastball -- your fastball being languages."
At the time of his death, the 21-year-old spoke Spanish, English, French and Italian and was applying for jobs at the French and Italian embassies. It was in French class that he was killed.
Perez moved to the United States with his mother, Betty Cueva, when he was a freshman in high school. She speaks very little English and works as a maid, Cain said. But she was a teacher in Peru, and she came to the United States with the hope that her son would earn a college degree.
"That provided his motivation," Cain said. "He was doing this for his mother."
At Woodbridge Senior High School, in Perez's sophomore year, he took junior-level U.S. history, said his guidance counselor, Barbara Dragos. When he transferred to Hylton in his junior year, one of his electives was 20th-century history. For his senior year, he followed a "very rigorous form of study," as Cain put it, taking honors-level English, state and federal government and world geography classes.
After graduating from Hylton with an advanced studies diploma, Perez enrolled for a year at Miami Dade College before transferring to Northern Virginia Community College. He entered Virginia Tech last fall, preparing to graduate next year. He was majoring in international relations and minoring in French.
"He did something a lot of ESOL students are not able to do," Cain said. "They just can't separate from home. They go to NOVA or George Mason. But Tech -- that was a stretch." Some might plan to go away to school, but Perez was "one of the ones that actually went through with it," she said.
Cain was one of the first to hear about Perez's death last week, in a phone call she got that Monday night. On Tuesday morning she came to school looking for Dragos, who had said, often, to Cain: "We have to figure out a way for him to go to college. We can't let all that talent. . . ." She didn't always finish the sentence. She didn't have to.
When Cain got to school, Dragos and others were talking about the shootings. Cain had to tell them, "We lost one of ours."
"Who?" Dragos asked.
"Daniel," Cain answered, remembering later that saying his name "was like I put a knife right through her."
News of Perez's death spread far. Back in his home country of Peru, media outlets printed and broadcast numerous stories about him and the plight of his father, who was trying to get a visa to come see his son's body. The story was so big that when the elder Perez checked in for his flight to the United States , television cameras were there, filming his departure.
Outside his mother's front door in Woodbridge lay a welcome mat whose message was so faint as to be barely legible: "Home Sweet Home," it read. No one answered the doorbell.
Perez's friend Hugo Quintero said last week that when he arrived at Betty Cueva's home, the reality of his friend's death -- and what it was doing to his friend's mother -- hit hard. "I came into the house," he said, "and when I saw her, I was like: 'Oh, man. That's not good.' "
It's the finality of what happened that's so hard for Quintero and others to grasp: the fact that someone such as Perez, who had overcome so much and was achieving so much more, could be so swiftly snuffed out, in a class -- French -- that he loved and in which he excelled.
Said Quintero, sounding lost at the end of a conversation about his friend: "He was going to be my best man. He was going to be the man who was going to die by my side."
Perez has been remembered as a role model for immigrant students, a kid who came to the United States from a "very humble background," as Quintero said, a kid who had worked hard and made it to a four-year college. And he did it with a smile that everyone, from teachers to co-workers to a former principal, noticed.
"His smile lit up the room," Dragos said last week.
Which is to say, Cain said, that Perez wasn't just a young man intent on success but one who was enjoying his road to success as well.
"He wasn't going to have the American dream," she said. "He was already living the American dream."
By Darragh Johnson
Virginia Tech Magazine
Daniel Perez was a junior majoring in international studies. He was 21 years old and the son of Betty Cueva of Woodbridge, Va., and Flavio Perez of Peru.
Daniel left his homeland of Peru with his mother and sister in 2000 and attended two high schools and two community colleges before enrolling in Virginia Tech in fall 2006. In high school, Daniel was an accomplished swimmer, played tennis, and ran cross-country. He was a member of the National Honor Society and graduated from C.D. Hylton High School with honors in 2004.
He was a hard worker and accomplished anything he put his mind to. He had a big, beautiful smile; was a great friend; and was a wonderful brother and son. Since Daniel was little, he always had big ideas about how to fix things around the house (like an alarm clock that never did get fixed), or he ended up destroying them because he got really angry or frustrated when the repairs didn’t go as planned.
Daniel loved to play around the house imitating superheroes and singing a lot, which he never stopped doing even though his sister made fun of him because he had a special way of doing it. His singing always brought happiness to the hearts of his family.
Daniel had a one-year-old Bassett hound named Shiloh, on whom he lavished attention and whose photo was at the front of his personal profile in an online social chat room.
Being heard and making peace in the world was a dream Daniel had. He and his sister reminded their parents that there was always someone around who cared about them and what they did and who wanted to see them happy. Daniel believed that God put everyone here to make a difference in someone’s life. He loved to see his friends happy, and many of his friends viewed him as a role model. They said they were honored to have been able to call him “friend.”
Daniel’s nickname was “Korki” because he acted goofy and did the most unexpected things. However, he always tried to make his parents and sister proud of him.
Daniel had chosen to work toward a career in international services because he liked bringing people together and making the world a peaceful place to live. He made his voice heard and encouraged the people around him to be better individuals. One of his friends was quoted as saying, “He was an amazing friend. I will never forget that.”
Through the Virginia Tech Foundation, the Daniel Alejandro Perez-Cueva Memorial Scholarship has been established at Virginia Tech in his memory. For more information and/or to donate to this memorial fund, see VT's Hokie Spirit Memorial Funds page.