Natasha Cherry-Perez Helps New York's Children Attend High Quality Schools

Leaders of Color-New York alum Natasha Cherry-Perez spent more than 15 years working in technology, events, and sports - managing projects and staff, providing technical solutions, and doing deep planning to ensure every event was a success. 

Then, it was time for her daughter to start attending school. As an adult, Natasha lives in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn she and her husband grew up in. However, after looking into the nearby schools, Natasha realized that she would need to expand her search to find a high-quality school for her own daughter. 

That search for the right school would become the start of a huge career and life shift for Natasha. 

“We only had one decent elementary school and everybody tries to cram into that school. And then the middle schools and high schools get a little shaky. It was tough, but we needed to find a place for our daughter to attend school. That’s when we found out about charter schools. We did our research and put her into the lottery for every school we could get her to,” Natasha remembers. 

After extensive research, Natasha and her husband enrolled their daughter in Uncommon Schools’ Excellence Girls Charter School, where she attended from kindergarten until eighth grade. At the same time, Natasha and her cousin started a mentoring program for young girls in her Brooklyn neighborhood. They enlisted a group of outstanding women as mentors who exposed the young girls to different career paths, explored the city, and even created a global network by connecting the girls with pen pals in Africa. The threads of Natasha’s life were weaving together. Driven by the challenges she experienced in her daughter’s school search and the deep desire to help children in her neighborhood succeed, she joined the parent advocacy group at Excellence Girls which evolved into a full-time job starting Uncommon NYC’s external affairs team. 

Natasha shares, “We created a strong parent advocacy group and built relationships with many community-based organizations and elected officials. And it was really important to me because there are so many Black and brown people that live in communities that have been underserved for generations, especially in the realm of education. Charter schools have helped to bridge the divide by offering a higher quality of education. What I love about it is the high standard. When we give our children high bars, and then support teachers, schools, and parents to help the children, they will reach that bar. That’s what education is supposed to look like.”

Natasha now works to bring that high bar to schools across the entire state of New York through her work at the New York Charter Schools Association. From her neighborhood in Brooklyn to the state legislature, Natasha’s leadership is all about making sure that everyone has the chance to get a high-quality education. She’s passionate about helping parents fully understand the education options, and how to advocate for their families. 

“Many schools are still not where they need to be. There are not only schools but entire regions and districts that are still struggling to serve children and enrollment is low across the board. I also serve as the co-chair of my community board’s education committee. I tell parents all the time, if we don't fight for our kids, no one else will.  It's not enough to vote and leave electeds to do their jobs. We have to make sure they're doing their jobs. We have to become more informed and hold them accountable. It’s tough work, but it's worth it. Because it's for our kids.”

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