“Today’s youth are resilient, multilingual, intelligent and fierce, this is the future who will go off into the world to create a better one. I will do everything in my power to uplift their voices and put them first at the table to move us forward.”
After a national search, PSU’s Board of Directors, staff, youth members and an array of community leaders have selected Javier Juarez to become the Providence Student Union’s next Executive Director. Originally from Peru, Juarez came to the United States at the age of 10, and is a product of the Rhode Island public education system. Juarez is an avid advocate for the “betterment and accessibility of education for all” and has been a pivotal voice for education reform in the state.
As an undocumented immigrant in higher education, Juarez raised awareness about the obstacles 1st-generation and low-income students face by sharing his story to the public, and advocating for better financial structures within higher education institutions across the country. His advocacy efforts led to the creation of progressive programs such as in-state tuition for all in Rhode Island (RI Promise), the expansion of eligibility requirements for private/public scholarships, and pushing institutions for better diversity and inclusion efforts. Juarez’s message of empowerment, resilience and hope during the commencement address at Brown University went viral and it reached hundreds of thousands of 1st generation students across the country.
“It is a rare privilege to be a part of an organization that says to itself it is ready to transition from its founding executive director and embark on a search for the person who will take PSU to the next level,” said Taino Palermo, Chair of the PSU Board of Directors. “On behalf of the board, we couldn’t be more excited about the passion, energy and expertise Javier will bring to PSU, and we are ready to get to work.”
With over 10 years of organizing, education and advocacy experience working at CASO (Coalition for Advocates for Student Opportunities), Brown University, DORCAS International, and the Community College of Rhode Island, Javier brings leadership, energy and a new perspective for education equity for Providence. Juarez is a Tedx speaker, a Dream Lead Institute Fellow and holds an MA in American Studies from Brown University.
“The time is now to reconstruct the way we think about education in our city and our state,” said Juarez in a statement. “This pandemic has exacerbated the socioeconomic disparities of communities of color and we must act now. Today’s youth are resilient, multilingual, intelligent and fierce, this is the future who will go off into the world to create a better one. I will do everything in my power to uplift their voices and put them first at the table to move us forward. I hope to act as a facilitator and use my experience and education to make Rhode Islanders look at our mission again. I look forward to working with our Board of Directors, Commissioner Infante-Green, Mayor Elorza and superintendent Harrison Peters to create a better future for Providence youth and their families.”
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Juarez also expressed gratitude and well wishes to outgoing Executive Director Zack Mezera: “I am incredibly grateful to outgoing Executive Director Zack Mezera for the past 10 years of service to PSU. He has been an important ally as we transition our positions. I wish him nothing but the best and I appreciate him for what I know must be a difficult transition. But what I know is that he has impacted the lives of many and our community will enjoy watching him continue to grow as a professional. Zack has built something special here at PSU, and I promise to not let him down. We wish him the best and hope he continues being a fearless change agent in our state.”
Students were actively involved in Juarez’s selection.
“Interviewing Javier was a pleasure, and it was exciting to see all of the amazing qualities he possesses,” said Jayson Rodriguez, Leadership Team Director and Junior at the Met High School. “His passion and commitment to community engagement and educational equity really stuck out to myself, staff members, other youth and the board. After his interviews it was clear that he was someone that could lead and learn alongside youth and staff, and bring the organization to its next steps. He will further achieve our mission of student well-being and close the gap of education equity in Providence Public Schools. Thank you to everyone who helped throughout the hiring process, and thank you to Zack for showing us leadership, passion and strength for the past 10 years, and we cannot wait to see what you will achieve next.”
Here’s Juarez speaking in 2017: