Interview with Princeton AlumniCorps’ New Board Member, Alejandro Perez ’10

Alejandro Perez ’10 graduated from Princeton University with a BA in Spanish Literature, one that, despite Spanish being his native tongue, he did not discover until his college years.  Hailing from a small town in south Texas, he is a first generation American and first generation college graduate.  He worked for a year through Princeton AlumniCorps. As a Parent Outreach Coordinator for New York Center for Child Development, Alejandro spent two days out of the week in Spanish Harlem where he worked alongside a psychologist.  

This year Alejandro plans to work for the same clinic in Spanish Harlem as a Health Education Outreach Worker, where he will implement new initiatives to better track the patients.  Apart from this, Alejandro’s central focus is writing, from poetry to short fiction.  While he does hope to attend graduate school in clinical psychology, he knows that writing will always be an important part of his life. 

Q: How/Why did you get involved with Princeton AlumniCorps? Did it surprise you to learn that Princeton AlumniCorps is a multigenerational organization?

I knew my senior year in college that I wanted to do some form of public service, whether abroad or here in the US.  I wanted an experience that would combine my interest in public service and clinical psychology.  When I got a position at New York Center for Child Development, I knew it would be a formative experience, one that would make a meaningful impact on the people of East Harlem.

Yes, it surprised me to discover that Princeton AlumniCorps. engages different generations either through programs or initiatives for different classes or just through the network of people involved with the program.

Q: What is your background regarding nonprofits/volunteering? How have you demonstrated “Princeton in the Nation’s Service?”

I have been volunteering since I was a sophomore in high school.  I started volunteering in an ER at a local hospital, then taught an ESL class for YWCA, and then proceeded to apply to public service programs.

Working in East Harlem as an assistant to a mental health team has taught me that change can be on an individual or institutional level.  By normalizing mental health services in a community where it still holds a stigma and by treating patients from that same community, I have been a part of movement that combines both the individual and institutional change.  Ultimately though  I think our motto speaks to our awareness and engagement with the community around us in whatever capacity that may be.  I think I have accomplished this.

Q: What’s the most important thing you look for when supporting an organization or serving on a nonprofit board?

I look first at the mission and then at the projects in which an organization is involved.  These two things indicate who the organization engages and how they do so.

Q: Please discuss the importance of what Princeton AlumniCorps does for the Princeton community and communities across the country.

It creates a counter culture in some sense, one of engaged graduates of all ages.  As Princeton AlumniCorps expands and encompasses other classes, I think more and more people will see public service as a lifelong commitment, just as the founders of Princeton AlumniCorps envisioned it.

Q: For 2011-12, AlumniCorps placed 51 Project 55 fellows. What would your advice be for our newest class of PP55 fellows, and to those Princetonians who are still looking for a job next year?

For those PP55 fellows, take advantage of the opportunities that this program gives to you.  It is an opportunity to meet people across all industries that care and are passionate about making a meaningful change.

To those young Princetonians still looking for a job, this time of transition can be an opportunity to try new hats that you never thought would interest you.  Be flexible with your goals and where they may lead you.

Q: What is your hope for the future of Princeton AlumniCorps?

My hope for Princeton AlumniCorps is that it grows to incorporate not just all classes but also people of different industries.  Public service is not just a career or an internship, it is a actively engaging with the world around you. 

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