Gary Perez was just looking for a place to play basketball when he first came across Children’s Aid. He found that and then some within the teen program at the Salomé Ureña Campus during the early 90s, which was part of the organization’s direct community outreach in Washington Heights.
“It got me off the streets,” he said. “My mom was happy I was there. She even took Zumba and aerobics classes at SU.”
Gary reconnected with the organization, after he started college, to work in the after-school program and would go on to wear many hats across the years, one of which was coach of the same youth basketball program he first participated in. Throughout his various roles, Gary learned how to build community and provide support to the youth and families he grew up with in Washington Heights.
“To this day I want to make sure that I keep the tradition alive of how you reach kids in the community,” said Gary. “I’m always willing to help because that was what I was taught when I was young.”
Gary continues this work today in his newly appointed position as community school director of the Fairmont-Samara campus in the Bronx. He truly knows what it means to be there every step of the way for kids and feels privileged to witness his students, former and current, thrive.
“That’s the product of Children’s Aid—to make sure that kids know what they want, to make sure they obtain their goals, and that they know how to get there.”