Hosted by Susan

This conversation highlights how a caring educator listened and responded to the holistic needs of the adolescent students he counseled for 30 years. Needs to connect with and experience the natural world. To tend to the earth and know where food comes from. To be hydrated and have a healthy school environment. To experience spaces of safety and belonging. To move, both freely and intentionally. To connect with breath, and cultivate inner calm. To travel, learn and connect with college representatives and others who prompted imagination of and opened doorways to vibrant futures. Pausing mid-conversation to listen to Nina Simone sing Feeling Good prompted Franky Perez to share the ways he would center himself, reset, get out of his head and move away from being preoccupied by staff that’s not that important: connecting with nature, paying attention and being mindfully present along the way to sustain his efforts. It’s important to get to a place of feeling good, he says, so we can be there for others. The legacy of his work to ensure that if opportunities are available to anyone they should be available to everyone speaks for itself. Initiatives he championed continue, and when he reconnects with students 10 or 20 years after supporting them, he regularly hears: Mr. Perez, I’m doing what I do because of you.

Franky Perez is an educator who recently retired after a successful 30 year career with the Poughkeepsie City School District. Starting as a Spanish teacher, he ultimately served as school counselor for thousands of middle and high school students throughout the years. With a holistic and caring view of his students, Franky consistently sought out partnerships and established programs in support of their wellness and sense of belonging. He coordinated with Vassar College to support the needs of English language learners and other students. At the high school, he created the multicultural club and a diversity club called Latinos Unidos. He established a multicultural college fair that ran consistently throughout his career. As a member of the wellness committee, he worked to create healthy school environments throughout the district.  He partnered with My Brother’s Keeper to establish a mindfulness yoga program for students of all ages. He worked with the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, coordinated a USDA Farm to School grant and built an outdoor classroom with over twenty raised beds and a room for raising microgreens to create connection to fresh food during the winter months.