San Benito High School social science teacher and BenitoLink reporter Frank Perez has been awarded the Armenian Genocide Education Award by the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region’s Education Committee.
"He is being honored for his commitment in educating students about crimes against humanity, and shaping an empathetic, informed, and tolerant generation," said SBHS Vice Principal Jeremy Dirks in an email to school staff. "Mr. Perez has had his articles on this topic published in both the Mercury News and on BenitoLink. Mr. Perez continues to educate our students on this topic in his World Studies classes as well."
Perez, who was nominated by Genocide Education (GenEd) Project executive director, Roxanne Makasdjian, will be formally recognized at the Armenian Genocide Awards Luncheon on Feb. 25 in Glendale, Calif.
"I’m both humbled and honored by the recognition. And I believe it validates what my colleagues and I do every single day, which is teaching about humanity's past in hopes of improving its future," Perez said.
GenEd is "a nonprofit organization assisting educators in teaching about human rights and genocide, particularly the Armenian Genocide, as the predecessor of the pattern of genocides that followed,” according to its website.
Perez said he met Makasdijian in 2015 at a teacher workshop in San Francisco, where he shared with her the Armenian Genocide curriculum he had developed and implemented in his courses. "I also told her about my interest in writing about human rights issues, including genocide," Perez said. "She later mentioned an Op-ed piece I had published in the San Jose Mercury News on the Armenian Genocide on the GenEd website."
While Perez is a teacher by day, he is passionate about journalism — addressing issues affecting San Benito County and beyond.
"I believe my journalistic philosophy has been shaped by my love of history and my career as an educator," he said. "Generally, I looked for news stories that have some connection to our county’s past or those that are waiting to be told. Our county is full of interesting people and happenings. I just want readers to be aware and, to a degree, appreciative of our home."
His op-ed pieces and letters to the editor, which have also been published in the New York Times, "are an outgrowth of the curriculum I teach in my class, especially those topics that address human rights issues. It’s really about raising awareness."
For BenitoLink, Perez has written stories on topics such as the canonization of Fr. Junipero Serra, a feature on a transgender high school student, the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, a former Hollister minister's photographs of the Cuban Revolution, and the preservation of ancestral tribal lands in San Benito County.
Perez said he is passionate about the plight of Armenians because "I feel that I have moral responsibility to teach others, both those inside and outside my classroom, about human rights issues, particularly genocide and genocide denial. For over a century, Turkey has denied an event that renown genocide scholars and historians have agreed was the 20th Century’s first genocide. In fact, it became the blueprint for all future genocides, including the one that has been occurring in Darfur, Sudan since 2003. Giving voice to the voiceless, whether those muted over 100 years ago or being silenced today, is a responsibility we all share."
In a congratulatory email shared with staff, U.S. Government teacher Mitch Huerta called Perez "a colleague and friend" and that "I appreciate and value his efforts to promote human rights and to re-tell the stories of millions of people who had their voices silenced."
For more information about the awards luncheon, click here.