College Board Fellow Paul Perry On Building Empowering Learning Experiences for Underrepresented Students
College Board Fellow Paul Perry On Building Empowering Learning Experiences for Underrepresented StudentsMichael Preston, Senior Communications Specialist
On a daily basis, Paul Perry is reminded that his life could have turned out very differently.
“Before I was born, my mom was addicted to drugs and ended up in prison, so she was actually pregnant with me while she was in prison,” he said. “Lucky for me she got out and I was born healthy, but that sort of double consciousness — that sense of what my life could have been — stays with me every single morning I put my feet on the side of the bed.”
Adopted by friends of his mother and given a stable home and upbringing, Perry has gone on to successful academic and professional careers. But his early experiences of seeing other family members incarcerated or placed into the foster care system have instilled within him a desire to build empowering learning experiences for young adults who have been impacted by poverty, violence, or cultural marginalization.
“I work with and for youth who have been underserved by our educational and criminal justice systems in part because of the ways my own family has experienced inequities in these systems,” Perry explained. “The work is deeply personal for me because when people discuss the statistics and have high-minded debates about structural issues, they’re talking about my loved ones.”
As a College Board fellow, Perry took a position with The Reset Foundation, a San Francisco–based nonprofit dedicated to breaking the poverty to prison cycle. In his role as executive director, Perry focuses on running the foundation’s first Reset campus — a residential community that provides a healthy living environment, academic guidance and support, and career preparation skills for at-risk youth — a model the organization hopes will serve as an alternative to incarceration.
Prior to joining The Reset Foundation, Perry worked with the New York City Department of Education’s Expanded Success Initiative (ESI), a program designed to increase the number of black and Latino young men who graduate high school and are prepared for college and career success. As a school design fellow, he helped build and launch a competency-based high school model for those communities and was involved in developing professional learning systems centered on cultural relevance, restorative practice/justice, and youth development practice.
Perry holds a doctorate in education leadership from Harvard, masters’ degrees from the University of California, Berkeley (public policy) and the University of Pennsylvania (education), and a dual degree in political science and international studies from American University. He was a reading and language arts teacher with Teach for America in Philadelphia, and has worked with the Los Angeles Unified School District on professional development for teachers and principals.