Sherice Perry ’99 recently released her first book, Invincible Summer: A 30-day Reflectional on the Power of Kindness. Sherice is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and holds a Master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University. She also studied at Oxford University. Today, she is a communications strategist in Washington, D.C., where she advises nonprofits and community-based organizations that are fighting for the greater good.
How did Kellenberg prepare you for where you are today in your life?
Taking religion class each year provided an important building block for my faith. More important than learning the actual stories in the Bible is that the religious foundation I received shaped strong principals that I constantly fall back on – whether or not I realize it.
I think Kellenberg also gave me a chance to see first-hand that when you put your mind to something and you work hard at it, you can succeed. I saw that in the classroom, but even more so in the sports that I played. I joined the gymnastics team in the seventh grade with some experience, but not as much training as the other girls. I couldn’t compete until the ninth grade because of the league’s rules, but Mrs. Denise (Pisapia) Prosceo pushed me to work just as hard as everyone else at practice. When it came time to compete, I was prepared and I actually did really well. It was the same thing with running Spring track. I wasn’t really a “runner,” but Coach Buckley found a race that would work for me. Sophomore year, I ran the anchor leg on our Sophomore 4×400 relay and we won the city championships! It is one of my favorite memories. It was really cool. So I think having teachers and coaches who were willing to invest in me helped me to push myself. Seeing the results made it all worth it.
After many years in a fast-paced job at the Department of Health and Human Services, you decided it was time to slow down and take a break. What did you do with your downtime, and how did that time shape your future?
My job at the Department of Health and Human Services was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Healthcare has always been an incredibly important issue to me and I’ve spent the majority of my career working on it. I believe that everyone should have access to healthcare and should be able to go to the doctor when they are sick. So being able to support President Obama on that legacy issue was an incredible honor. You commit. You know it’s going to be tough, but you learn a lot. As an appointee, you make a commitment knowing it will be long hours, and you grow because of the incredible opportunity before you. But there are sacrifices. You miss birthdays and vacations knowing you are working for the greater good. Ironically, right before I started my position at HHS, I was diagnosed with lupus, which is an autoimmune disease that causes pain, inflammation, and severe fatigue. There’s no way I should’ve been able to do that job. But God gives us the grace to do the things he sets out for us.
When I left the Department, I went to go work for Billie Jean King for a bit. About a year into that job, I realized how exhausted I was and had been for a long time. I made the decision to take some time to reset and reassess. It was the scariest thing I had ever done. I’ve never not had a job. And I’ve never stepped away from a good job not knowing what I was going to do next, but I wanted to be very intentional about what I did next. So, I took a life-break. I slept, I got to know DC again, met up with friends, learned to meditate, took yoga, went hiking, walked, and exercised. I started writing again because journaling had been something I had to put off when I was working the crazy hours. So I got to know myself again. When I would meet up with my girlfriends for coffee and share things with them, they would ask me what I was doing with my time off and I would tell them about my journaling. As I shared my struggles and successes with them via text and in conversations, I’d also share quotes, questions, and random musings and many of them told me they wanted to take time to reflect and write too. That’s how Invincible Summer came to be. I never set out to write a book, just a gift for my friends.
What do you hope readers take away from your book, Invincible Summer: A 30-day Reflectional on the Power of Kindness?
I hope they take time to step away from the busy of their everyday lives and experience quiet moments to reflect, refocus, and do things that restore them.
What are you up to now?
I am a Vice President at Spitfire, a woman-owned, strategic communications firm rooted in one core principle: everyone belongs and has the power to spark change.
Who was your favorite teacher/class, moderator/club, or coach/team from your time as a student here, and why?
My favorite class was definitely Mr. Huggard’s English class. He’s an amazing teacher who brought literature to life and helped me sharpen my writing skills. He was an important sounding board for me after I graduated and is just a good human being. I am also very grateful for the guidance of Mrs. Denise (Pisapia) Prosceo, my gymnastics and cheering coach. Gymnastics was my first love and she helped me to excel even though I wasn’t the most naturally talented or trained. She helped me understand how much hard work could actually pay off.