He was born in Los Angeles but moved to San Diego at age 4. The child of Mexican immigrants, Peraza said he didn't speak English and even "flunked kindergarten because (I) didn't know my ABCs."
Overcoming a language barrier, Peraza went on to California State University, Long Beach, on a track scholarship and graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor's degree in political science. After college, Peraza served several internships in Washington, D.C.
Sounding more like a motivational speaker, Peraza asked the students what they aspire to be in life.
"Artist," said one boy.
"On the Lakers," said another boy.
"Presidenta," said a girl.
"I think you should all keep your dreams," Peraza told the students.
"Listen to your teachers, your parents. They've been through everything," Peraza said.
"Keep believing in your dreams. You just have to believe in yourself. Keep working hard."
After his presentation, Peraza said he enjoyed his visit to what he called a "great school."
While he didn't think the students completely grasped what exactly he does for a living, he acknowledged that being Latino helped him reach the students in a special way.
"When I see them, I see myself," Peraza said.
He said it's important for young Latino students to have positive Latino role models, which he quickly admitted didn't necessarily include himself.
Peraza said he'd like to visit the Valley once a month to familiarize himself with the area.
"I need to learn as much as possible about the area," Peraza said.
Peraza said he'd like to bring Boxer here for a visit, and a possible stop at Lincoln Elementary School.
As for his future in politics, Peraza said he's unsure of how far into the political world he aspires to. Rather, he's interested in acquiring a teaching credential and possibly teaching elementary school.
Peraza's visit was a prelude to the El Centro Elementary School District's migrant education summer school career day later this month.
Events like Peraza's visit and the coming career day are all part of the school's character building effort being undertaken by the district.
Through character building, the staff is attempting to expose the students to character traits they can "discover to get what they want in life," said Principal Gloria Ovando.
"Character traits will help (the students) become lifelong problem solvers," said teacher Esther Green.
Staff Writer Anthony Longorio may be reached at 337-3452.