Various sources may say a variety of things about Ashley Pereira, but one thing that they will never fail to mention is that above all things she is passionate. At times almost fiercely so, because she devoutly believes that anything worth doing is worth doing without reservation and with complete abandonment or not doing at all. For the first couple of years at Boston Latin School high school seemed like something barely worth doing at all, and one afternoon in ninth grade upon hearing that after yet another parent conference, her guidance counselor told her father that “Boston Latin School didn’t need Latinas like Ashley at their school” Ashley almost believed that high school, especially Boston Latin, wasn’t worth doing at all. Her family and the GSA she had been attending since 7th grade disagreed, and thankfully they proved to be far more stubborn than Ashley was.
Though the school GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) was not exactly the most popular or well-regarded organization at her school, they provided what most teachers and guidance counselors did not- faith and support, no matter what the circumstances, through good days and bad days, through A+s and Fs. By ninth grade she was ready to become an openly active member and by tenth she was vice president. The spring of tenth grade she attended a GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network) conference where she represented the BLS GSA and learned how to combat homophobia at her school through events such as Days of Silence, which she helped to coordinate that year.
That summer she joined two organizations that helped her strengthen her self as well as her voice, Poder Latino De Jovenes and Youth Voice Collaborative. At Poder Latino she worked as a peer leader educating herself and other youth in her community about HIV/AIDs, and at YVC she learned how to understand and interpret the media she absorbs everyday and how to create her own. She was also able to reach other teens through work shops and at other out reach events that YVC hosted. She continues to support Poder Latino De Jovenes events and still works at YVC.
Since YVC is at the Clarendon Street YWCA it became involved with the Public Education Network’s No Child Left Behind Act Conference which was hosted there, and she testified at that conference, to help voice the frustrations of so many fellow students and to speak out against standardized testing and other damaging flaws in the educational system.The conference inspired her to seriously consider not only a possible career in education reform but also public service. Shortly after she began to attend REEP (Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project) a group that she testified with at the Youth Violence Prevention Committee hearing towards the end of her junior year.
The Youth Violence Prevention Committee chairman City Councilor Michael Ross was her sponsor this summer. This fall she will be a senior and will be seeking a higher education at a competitive university next fall, in the mean time she will continue working in her community and reminding other youth that they are not just the future, they are the present.