Hartford, Connecticut, December 19, 2016 – Trinity College Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success Angel B. Pérez has lived a life so inspiring that when he sent his personal story to author Laura Schroff it sparked her to compile a new book of encouraging success stories. As a young boy, Pérez moved with his family from Puerto Rico to the Bronx, New York, where he was befriended by a high school guidance counselor who set him on his path to success. Pérez is now responsible for Trinity’s offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, Institutional Research and Planning, and Career Development, and has a lengthy list of accomplishments.
Pérez’s story is featured in Angels on Earth: Inspiring Stories of Fate, Friendship, and the Power of Connections (Simon & Schuster, 2016), the second of two nonfiction books by Schroff that recount the true tales of successful people. Her first book, An Invisible Thread, was a New York Times Bestseller.
At the age of 3, Pérez’s parents moved their family to the United States, seeking economic opportunities and a better life. The South Bronx was a dangerous place to live, and Perez remembers being mugged and held up at knifepoint when he was a middle school student. He was relieved to be accepted to Martin Luther King Jr. High School, which took him away from his neighborhood. Despite having to take two trains and a bus to get to school every morning, Pérez was able to leave the Bronx and meet the counselor who changed his life – Irma.
Pérez met Irma at an after-school student mediator program, where the guidance counselor saw his potential after he proposed a particularly clever idea. Their relationship grew, from the small act of Irma giving Pérez a bottle of aloe vera to help soothe his sunburn (Schroff’s chapter devoted to Pérez’s story is titled “The Sunburn”) to Irma pushing Pérez to leave his family and his comfort zone to attend Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Pérez said Irma helped him get to Skidmore and his experiences there made him a changed man. Pérez and Irma have stayed in touch over the years. “Our relationship has evolved to ‘godmother’ and ‘godson’ status,” Pérez said. “She is now retired and I stay in close touch to make sure she is doing well and enjoying life. It’s the least I can do after all she’s done for me.”
While earning his B.S. from Skidmore College, his M.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, Pérez has done his part to pay it forward and help underprivileged students the way Irma helped him. Pérez has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship, was named a Master Teacher, and has received many awards, including several for his leadership on behalf of low-income and first-generation college students. He said, “I work outrageous hours and always take on more than I should, but I love it. I’ve spent most of my career in higher education, but I also took a few years to work at a high school in New York City as a public school counselor. I wanted to help students get into college from what those in my profession call ‘the other side of the desk’... I also spend a lot of my spare time working with organizations that serve low-income students, first-generation students, and international students.”
Pérez’s advice to students who are trying to make a better future for themselves is, “Believe in yourself, work harder than anyone else, and don’t give up. And remember, when you make it, because I know you will, always give back.”
Written by Catie Currie ’17