Where are they now? Juan J. Bernabe Perez ’17

issue 01 | summer 2024
Juan Perez

Juan J. Bernabe Perez ’17 had achieved financial and professional security by age 27. His rung on the corporate ladder came with firm footing and a great view.

He was a statewide operations manager for a regional health care network in Massachusetts, with a team of 57 employees under his command. It’s a career Perez never could have imagined 16 years earlier after emigrating from the Dominican Republic with his single-parent mother.

Low on confidence, slow to grasp English, and bullied for being gay, Perez transformed his life through the help of mentorship in his adopted hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts. He dreamed of one day paying it forward.

His time at Denison helped him achieve that goal.

“I am who I am because of my Denison education,” said Perez, who remains close to modern languages associate professor Dosinda Alvite. “I built so many connections and crossed so many bridges in my time there. I was able to become a leader.”

His origin story was featured in the spring 2014 edition of Denison Magazine. A decade later, Perez is helping ease the burdens of fellow immigrants trying to start a new life in America.

In 2023, he quit his job with the regional health care provider to become the site director for an emergency family shelter assessment center. Perez works to supply medical assistance, housing, job skills, and other critical support for immigrants in Massachusetts.

“I left the corporate world because I was missing that connection, that human touch,” he said. “I’m a people’s person. I missed working with individuals and impacting lives.”

His corporate responsibilities never prevented Perez from volunteering his time and sharing his inspirational story. He’s a regional board member for Easterseals Massachusetts, which offers essential services for people with disabilities. He’s also a role model for youth who see a bit of themselves in Perez.

As a senior in high school, he was featured in the PBS documentary The Graduates/Los Graduados, which spotlights educational success stories of Latino students. He still receives email and social media inquiries about his appearance.

“That show opened many doors,” Perez said. “It enabled me to meet celebrities and do some public speaking, talking about my experience in LGBTQ+ community.”

Perez remains close to his mother, a staunch Christian who imbued him with confidence by accepting his sexual orientation. And, yes, he still loves to dance, an activity he briefly abandoned while struggling to assimilate into American culture.

“I still take classes here and there,” Perez said. “Dance is my therapy. It helps me decompress.”

Published May 2024
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