Consuelo Perez: Parent Advocacy
Consuelo Perez came to the United States from Peru in 1987, and settled in Somerville. Although she had attended medical school in her home country, she spoke no English and supported herself by sewing. When her young daughter Gizela neared school age, she saw a need for the system to better integrate Spanish-speaking students, and began advocating for funding to start a bilingual program. That program, Unidos, has grown to become a cornerstone of Somerville’s K-8 offerings.
Following the birth of her second daughter, Tatiana, who has special needs, Consuelo shifted her focus. Like many parents of children with disabilities, she struggled to understand the complex systems of health care and education to ensure that her daughter received necessary services. Meanwhile, she made it her mission to lead by example, bringing both girls with her as she attended college classes and continuing to advocate for greater inclusion of the special needs and Latino communities.
Consuelo finds refuge in art, creating multimedia pieces using recycled material, turning trash to treasures. Her work includes sculpture, painting, and even clothing. She has been featured as part of Somerville Open Studios as well as in Beyond the Pattern, a fashion show highlighting local designers. For her, art is an important self-care strategy, and she has found that the process is also empowering for her daughters and their friends.
She currently works for the Parent Professional Advocacy League, with a special focus on helping Latino families like her own. “I want to share the knowledge I gained from supporting my daughter”, she says. “I am helping Latino parents who have similar struggles as me to navigate the system, especially the special needs system. I want to be a role model for the community. I want to be understood that I was an immigrant, I came here with nothing, and I learned and observed and now I am able to help my daughters.”