Gilberto Perez Jr., senior director of intercultural development & educational partnerships at Goshen College, is the recipient of two awards from statewide organizations for his work in education and advocacy for the Indiana Latino community. [Perez is a 1994 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University, and earned a graduate certificate in peacebuilding from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in 1999.]
Before taking on a leadership role in the college’s Center for Intercultural and International Education in 2014, Perez taught for two years as associate professor of social work. He previously served the larger community as a therapist, a regional Mennonite conference minister, a facilitator and a program director of a mental health center. He has a passion for bringing diverse people together and increasing trust and relationships between local law enforcement officials, neighborhood associations, Goshen College and the Latino community.
“These organizations are asking the question of ‘How do we embrace this diverse community?’” Perez said. “For me, it’s work I’ve been doing for the last 15 years with mental health, with immigrants adjusting to life in the U.S. These organizations are looking for places for their people to be welcomed, and that reflects what we’re trying to do at Goshen College too.”
Teacher of the Year Award
On Sept. 28, Perez will be honored as Teacher of the Year 2016 by the Indiana Governor’s office and the Indiana Latino Expo (ILE), a nonprofit statewide organization representing the Latino community and interests. He will receive the award at the Governor’s Business Luncheon in Indianapolis.
“It is really an honor to give this award to a person that really works for the entire community,” said Marco Dominguez, ILE president.
ILE supports various communities in creating awareness of their businesses, promoting economic development, cultural advancement, and educational opportunities. ILE also provides support for health and wellness with the purpose of improving the quality of life for Latinos and other communities in Indiana.
Chickadee Bird Award
Perez will also be the recipient of the 2016 Chickadee Bird Award from the Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance (IUYA) on Sept. 30. This award will be presented at the IUYA Scholarship Banquet, “Voices Unheard. Stories Untold,” at the Ivy Tech Corporate College and Culinary Center in Indianapolis.
The Chickadee Bird Award is given to a person who leads with courage and seeks new avenues of growth. The Chickadee bird, a small but brave and highly adaptable animal, was chosen as a symbol to remind IUYA members and community to respond to injustice with courage, despite size and influence.
“Gilberto has been an influential mentor and a great friend to IUYA,” the IUYA executive board said in a statement. “Additionally, his efforts to lead and inspire other leaders to serve the undocumented community in Goshen empowers our work and personal goals. We truly appreciate his advocacy and how he voices our concerns in political environments in a manner that respects our work and dignity.”
The Indiana Undocumented Youth Alliance was founded by Indiana undocumented youth who held a sit-in at former Governor Mitch Daniels’ office asking to veto bills HEA 1402 and SEA 590. These bills were created to impair the economic stability and prosperity of undocumented families living in the state.
Published with permission from Goshen College.