Perez to receive award for keeping the ‘Dream’ alive
Hillsboro educator and activist Carlos Perez will receive the “Keep Alive the Dream” lifetime achievement award Jan. 18 as Greater Portland joins hands to celebrate the life and work of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 2004, Perez became a founding member of the Human Rights Council of Washington County and was recently behind the formation of the Latino Leadership Forum.
Perez, a teacher, counselor and administrator for the Hillsboro School District for more than three decades was shocked when in 2003, a newspaper survey found that Hillsboro residents’ least favorite part about living in the city was the influx of Latino immigrants.
Ever since he was a boy, when his teacher suggested he change his name to Charles to help him fit in better, he knew that assimilation was no way to promote the diverse nature of the great American way.
Focusing on academic achievement in an atmosphere free of bias, Latino Leadership Forum members serve as mentors for children of color. Hired by the school district in 1978, Perez was invariably the first Latino to hold each of the administrative positions he achieved.
Because of his experiences, he believes it’s important that children have role models who look like them and share some cultural experiences.
“These kids know that they can aspire to be in those positions if they choose to do that,” he said.
The Human Rights Council meets monthly to focus a lens on education about the value of diversity and advocate against civil injustice with the help of members in government, law enforcement and other agencies and businesses.
Members also hold listening meetings at local schools to identify human rights issues from the viewpoint of the younger generation.
In a lot of respects, talking with the students shows that while some issues surrounding prejudice and human rights have gotten better, there’s still a lot of work to be done, he said. This includes ending bias, whether based on age, gender, sexual orientation or disability, he said.
“The civil rights movement has existed for over 50 years, and we’re still dealing with (many of) the same issues that Dr. King dealt with in the 1960s,” Perez said. “We’re in it for the long haul. There is no quick fix. If we can learn to work with our differences, that’s where we break the cycle of mistrust.”
Perez is confused by a growing group who believes the way to solve differences is to remove foreign languages from American schools, while the rest of the world sees bilingualism as a huge asset.
“I don’t disagree that Hispanic students should learn English, but not at the expense of Spanish,” he says. “This mindset that you are less of a citizen because you speak another language in my view is (strange).”