Skip to Main Content

Promise Academy Science Teacher To Students: ‘You Have a Future in the Sciences’

Jerry Perez, Promise Academy Science Teacher

Promise Academy High School Science Teacher Jerry Perez

Teachers measure their impact in many ways: with improved test scores, a college acceptance letter, and even a smile.

Or, in Jerry Perez’s case, with a note.

On a recent school day, the science teacher at Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy picked up a piece of paper left on his desk.

“I couldn’t have done it without you,”  read the note from a student who, with Jerry’s support, performed well on a standardized test. He replied with one of his own: “You should be proud. You did it yourself.”

Strong teachers empower their students to know their potential. Perfect example: Jerry Perez. Everyday, he reminds his students that by working hard and believing in yourself, you can achieve your goals — like launching a career in STEM.

“I always tell my students, ‘You can have a future in the sciences,’” Jerry says.

‘Spreading the Wealth’

Jerry is one of hundreds of teachers at Harlem Children’s Zone’s Promise Academy who is transforming the lives of his students. Like many of our teachers, Jerry’s commitment to our scholars is personal.  

While Jerry never attended a Harlem Children’s Zone program growing up, the organization — and our focus on college as the primary means of achieving social and economic mobility — rubbed off on him. He had his sisters to thank for that. Jerry graduated from high school at a time when his friends were thinking about getting jobs, not degrees. But when he got accepted to college, his sisters — empowered by their experience as participants in our after-school programs — made sure he enrolled.

“They were influencing their older brother, their younger cousins, and their friends,” Jerry says. “They were spreading this wealth of information around.”

Now, as a science teacher, Jerry is spreading the wealth himself.

Connection Turns into Commitment

Jerry has always been connected to Harlem Children’s Zone. But it wasn’t until after 9/11 that that connection turned into a commitment. After witnessing the tragedy, he felt an urge to give back and deepen his relationship with his community. He began volunteering at Promise Academy Elementary School, tutoring students in science after school. 

The principal at the time “saw something in me and saw the kids were completely engaged,” Jerry recalls. She urged him to become a science teacher and, powered by a passion to change the lives of his students, he did.

“These children’s lives are at stake,” Jerry says. “This is their future. That has to mean something — to me, it definitely means something.”

Helping Students ‘See Their Future’

For Jerry, teaching isn’t only about lessons and grading — it’s about empowering students to understand their potential.

Just as his sisters impacted him by way of their experience at Harlem Children’s Zone, so too does he want to have that same impact on his students.

“I could tell there was something different about my sisters,” Jerry recalls of when they were attending our after-school programs. “They were able to see their future in a way that they couldn’t before. That’s the kind of impact they had on me. It’s the same impact I want to have on my students.”

Read more about