SYLVIA PEREZ -- the world’s her oyster
It would be logical for you to ask one of SVP’s newest partners if she ever sleeps. Once you learn what she has done with her professional and personal time, you could easily assume that the only way she has accomplished all that she has is by being either an insomniac or a workaholic. But you’d be wrong. In fact, even Sylvia’s closest friends are unaware of an amazing fact: She’s as comfortable sitting on a beach for two weeks doing absolutely nothing as she is in her full-court press professional mode.
Above all, Sylvia is a planner. In fact, she spent nine months of last year doing personal strategic planning. She discovered that she is now in a “practice” phase in which she has come into her own as a professional; she is intentionally using the skills and techniques she developed in earlier years to think strategically and to share with others what she has learned along the way. Eventually she expects her journey to propel her into being a leader of an organization whose mission and culture complements her style and values. But for now, she loves her work at The Cleveland Foundation and has become a Cleveland convert.
Sylvia was born in Washington, D.C., and lived there with her parents and two younger sisters until the end of high school. Her family was always civic-minded, drawn to issues involving equity and justice and ethnic power dynamics. During high school, she took part in CITYterm, an experiential learning program in New York City where she learned in powerful, though unorthodox ways. She remembers going up to the top of the World Trade Center where she was asked to look out over the landscape, isolate something she saw to pose a question about, and then answer that question. The critical thinking this program inspired appears to have informed her behavior ever since.
Sylvia attended Columbia University where she majored in Urban Studies with a concentration in Latino Studies, and studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After college, Sylvia remained in NYC to work for Living Cities, a national community development collaborative, and learned about the national community development system as well as nonprofit operations. She then shifted to international development in Nicaragua where she worked for Pro Mujer and learned how to empower people to work together through microfinance and grassroots community capacity development. The following year, Sylvia applied for and received an international fellowship with a Colombian NGO – Give to Colombia -- which was based in Miami. She lived in Bogota as an Atlas Service Corps Fellow and helped match U.S. donors to Colombian nonprofits; along the way she helped major philanthropic partners leverage their financial and intellectual resources to develop high-impact and strategic initiatives throughout the country. She returned to D.C. after a year and opened an office there for Give to Colombia, serving as its Development Manager.
In April, 2011, Sylvia attended graduate school at Baruch College in NYC via an executive fellowship program for nonprofit and public sector professionals – National Urban Fellows – which enrolled her in intensive classes and placed her at The Cleveland Foundation for nine months. After graduating with an MPA, she returned to work full-time for The Cleveland Foundation as the Chief of Staff and Manager for Governmental and International Affairs.
Sylvia’s passions run deep. She loves cities. She loves to do what she can to make others’ lives better. She cherishes mentorship and pursues this love as the vice-president of the National Board of Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Señoritas Latinas Unidas, a Latina-based sorority, and as a weekly volunteer for Minds Matter, a Cleveland nonprofit based on a national model which helps high-performing, low-income students prepare for college. Sylvia glows as she describes her mentee’s current and potential accomplishments; she clearly hopes their relationship will continue to grow over the years.
Sylvia’s friends would be likely to describe her as “serious, loving, kind, crazy, and really busy.” They have also been known to call her a “gypsy” both because of her love of travel and for her open-minded decision-making and flexibility when it comes to accomplishing her goals.
We have partner Shilpa Kedar to thank for introducing Sylvia to us and whetting her appetite for our mission and for the opportunity to accomplish “organizational impact” and learn about nonprofits in Cleveland through a different lens. Sylvia has the remarkable capacity to think strategically and see the big picture, while also enjoying life’s simpler pleasures. It is our pleasure to introduce her to you.