Laura Perez, an East Hampton High School senior scholar-athlete who has applied for early admission to Yale University, recently received a $1,000 grant to underwrite volunteer work she’s doing at the Retreat from the Women’s Fund of Long Island.
One of two students on Long Island to receive the Shapiro-McCormick Young Woman Leader Award, she said in her acceptance speech, given before a gathering of 700, that she had been “blessed to have always been supported and encouraged by my parents to go after my goals. . . . I believe everyone should be given a voice, regardless of one’s background. As Condoleeza Rice once said, ‘It doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going.’ ”
Through volunteering at the Retreat — “a safe haven where women are given a voice” — she had learned, she said, how greatly domestic violence could alter a life.
“Many of these women, often young girls, never had the courage to stand up for themselves until it was too late. That is why I feel it is so important to get involved and aim to be a part of the change. . . . To me, standing and watching from the sidelines is the same thing as doing nothing at all.”
Aside from captaining the varsity field hockey team, Laura, who has logged over 150 hours of community service, is a member of the National Honor Society, the Key Club (which works with Kiwanis), the French Club, the Century Club, and the Retreat’s teen leadership program.
She has interned with Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., has studied governmental procedures at the Harvard Model Congress, and was chosen by the high school’s faculty and the American Legion chapter here to attend a weeklong Empire Girls State conference this year which stressed “the importance of women’s participation in government and in leading an active community life.”