Position: Assistant Principal
School: Central Avenue Elementary School
School District: Osceola County School District
City, State: Kissimmee, Florida
About the Nominee: Jennifer Perez was nominated by a family member, Rebecca Brashears. Ms. Perez has one of the biggest smiles, an abundance of energy and a positive attitude all the time. Eighteen months ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and began to undergo treatment. During this time, she continued to work with the exception of going to appointments or treatment. She has always had beautiful, long, wavy hair, and the experience of losing your hair, as well as your eyelashes and eyebrows, can be most humbling. She tackled it like a trooper, however.
Living in Florida with some pretty warm temperatures, Ms. Perez chose not to wear a wig, scarf or cap most of the time, except for when the temperatures dropped and she was cold. She is a LifeChanger because the 650 students and staff at her school were inspired by her braveness and baldness. This was especially helpful to two new students last year. One of the students was bald from treatments for a brain tumor. As a result, they were shy when they started at their new school until they met Mrs. Perez. She gave this student confidence while teaching the other students compassion and empathy by modelling a smile and not being ashamed of her baldness. A second student who was losing their hair to alopecia found a friend in Mrs. Perez. The students at CAES learned a powerful lesson in accepting others. Through Mrs. Perez's positive ways, they turned a potentially challenging situation into a life lesson of acceptance of others, regardless of the circumstances.