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Chosen as one of Florida Weekly’s “2012 Power Women’, Susan Perez, COO of Nations surrounds herself with “gems.”
Ms. Perez established the GALA (Growing And Learning Always) program for girls in 2006, and her work in promoting women’s leadership has earned her and four of her graduates an invitation to the 2012 National Student Leadership Forum in November 2012 in Washington, D.C.
They are young women, rough and unpolished, whom Ms. Perez believes will shine like jewels — once they understand their potential, importance and individuality.
Ms. Perez is the daughter of Nations Association founder Rev. Israel Suarez and a tireless advocate for young people, and young women in particular. She was named chief operating officer last January and is charting the agency’s future by restoring its commitment to its founding mission — helping at-risk youth succeed.
To that end, she has taken Nations into a new partnership with other youth-centered groups including the Quality Life Center, AFCAAM, and Mt. Hermon and Mt. Olive churches. Together, the organizations last October announced their “bodacious” goals —raising the graduation and lowering the dropout rate, exposing children to health education courses and linking them with afterschool arts and sports programs.
“We will see more done for Nations if we work hand-in-hand,” Ms. Perez said. “We can’t do it alone.”
Even before the partnerships, Ms. Perez was working to help young people. She spearheaded Nations’ youth programs: a mentoring program for girls and another program that steers kids away from drugs, alcohol and gangs. The organization awards two college scholarships annually, and Ms. Perez is hoping to increase those in coming years.
“We need you,” she tells the young women she mentors. “You are like a piece of the puzzle in our community.”
Ms. Perez established the GALA (Growing And Learning Always) program for girls in 2006, and her work in promoting women’s leadership has earned her and four of her graduates an invitation to the 2012 National Student Leadership Forum next month in Washington, D.C.
Ms. Perez has been a part of Nations Association since her father established it in 1978 in a portable building adjacent to the church he led. She remembers the first day she volunteered to go to work; she’d dressed up in a yellow suit anticipating working the office. Instead, her father drove her to a farm to work the fields.
“These are the people we serve,” she remembered him saying. “You have to experience the lives of those people.”
The lesson has forever stayed with her.
“I realized how hard people have to work to survive.”
— Jennifer Reed
IN THE NEWS
Since opening its doors in 1978, Nations Association Charities has been reaching out to the area’s most economically disadvantaged residents – the homeless, jobless, and those on the breadline. While providing for the immediate needs of these individuals, Nations also equips them with the tools and skills for getting on the road to self-sufficiency.
There are many facets to this diamond in the community. Youth Mentoring and Scholarship Award Programs also encourage local teens to embrace their education and set goals to become community leaders. Needs within the community continue to grow and change to the point that we can never be fully satisfied that we have done all there is to do.
Nations has also been recognized as a Point of Light by former President H.W. Bush in 1990. Nations will continue to shine in Fort Myers along with a global outreach. As we grow, you grow with us. Fort Myers area communities have been a blessing to Nations over three decades. We will continue to also maintain and build relationships as we support those who need it in this challenging economy.
Nations’”Stellar Sponsors” below also may have a dedicated page to share as they have shared so much with Nations. Although Nations has been honored to serve the community for 34 years, you will see a fresh approach to ongoing projects with a new Face of Nations.
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