Since 2012, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has honored high school students or student-led organizations that “exemplify healthy life choices and demonstrate leadership by promoting wellness in their school community.”
Until this year, no Boston student had ever won the award. Jhoan Perez, a junior at Cristo Rey Boston High School, broke that streak last month. He was presented with the award in a ceremony on Feb. 16 outside the school on Savin Hill Avenue.
Perez earned the award for managing a running club for fellow students and teachers at Cristo Rey, a Catholic school that serves families of limited economic resources.
When asked about the honor, he responded: “Glory to God. It feels amazing to know that I’m the first kid in Boston to receive this award. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’m glad to represent Boston the best way I can. If any middle schoolers see this, maybe I can inspire them to do the same or even more.”
Perez thanked Sole Train, a Boston-based running and mentorship program, for getting him interested in health in middle school, and stressed the importance of staying active during the pandemic.
“Being in a time where we’re told not to go outside, or to put on a mask, and considering that it’s cold right now, it kind of defers the dream of wanting to exercise or wanting to get better physically and mentally,” he said.
“And that’s understandable. But you have to overcome it and try. If you don’t want to run, then at least walk around your house or walk outside, and then when you feel more comfortable, kick it up a little.”
In addition to striving toward wellness goals, Perez excels in the classroom.
Said Caitlin Gemma, faculty adviser to the Running Club, and Perez’s history teacher: “Jhoan demonstrates leadership and excellence in his schoolwork and extracurricular activities. He is a pleasure to have in my class and in running club. He is a role model for his peers and is so deserving of this award!”
According to Cristo Rey Boston President Rosemary Powers, Perez “exemplifies the drive and leadership that will lead to future success.”
For his part, Perez has no plans to slow down, literally or figuratively. “My plans are to become an engineer—specifically, an aerospace engineer—and from there to become an astronaut. I want to keep exercising and being the best person I can be.”
Editor’s Note: Katie Pedersen works at Cristo Rey Boston as a science teacher.