By Marisol Hernandez | Photography provided by CNY Latino
Rosemary Arroyo-Pérez, a first generation Puerto Rican hailing from New York City, fell in love with Syracuse when she moved to the area as a teenager 31 years ago. She loves the city and all it stands for — a city with a rich history of accepting people from different countries and cultures.
“You hear all different languages being spoken,” Rosie said with a smile, “and I think that is a beautiful thing, to be able to accept people not only for who they are, but also for what they can contribute.”
For Rosie, faith is at the center of her life, followed by family, and then everything else.
Fulfilling her responsibilities and maintaining a sense of balance is difficult at times, Rosie admits, but it’s nowhere near impossible. She reaches her goals with meditation, exercise, a healthy diet and a close-knit circle of friends.
“As a Latina mom and Puerto Rican, we are very passionate people. I am a loving person who gives lots of love to my children, teaching them right from wrong and raising them with those values of respect,” she said. “Being respectful to not just your parents and your siblings, but being respectful to anyone outside of that. Being faithful, giving and loving others is very important in our family.”
Rosie had a difficult childhood growing up in New York City, but it helped her become the woman she is today. She’s proud of that person.
“I had a wonderful grandmother, wonderful aunts and my mother, who are very strong-willed women,” she said. “So I succeeded beyond the odds of what was expected of me after getting married and having a child at a very young age.”
Rosie and her husband, Miguel A. Perez Jr., succeeded in completing college, setting an example for their daughters, Samantha and Bianca, both of whom followed in those footsteps to earn degrees. Their son, Miguel III, is currently in his sophomore year in high school.
In more than a 25-year career with the New York State Department of Health, Rosie has become known as one of the most prominent HIV/AIDS counselors and educators in her field.
In 2015, she was awarded the Commissioners Excellence Award by the New York State Department of Health commissioner for her contributions to the NYSDOH Health Equity Planning and Symposium Steering Committee. The work was in response to racial and ethnic health disparities, with an aim of achieving health equity in African American and Latino communities.
Over the years, Rosie’s volunteered in a number of positions that reflect her interest in public health and bilingual and community outreach efforts.
She’s served on the mayor’s Syracuse Commission for Women, is a member of St. Lucy’s — a parish known for helping those who are less fortunate — and has volunteered at many community events. She is currently serving her sixth year term as a board member for Welch Terrace, a not-for-profit housing program aiming to serve individuals afflicted by chronic illnesses.
Rosie’s firsthand experience helping people in her family address health issues has no doubt shaped her outlook and volunteer work. She’s been there for her husband through any health problems he’s encountered. Rosie’s mother is diabetic and suffers from COPD and emphysema. Rosie helps her the best she can; after all, she gave Rosie life and raised her children the best she could with what she had, Rosie said.
“My husband always jokes with me. He calls me Florence Nightingale, because I am always running to help others if they need me. We help one another. If you need anything, you can give the Perezes a phone call,” Rosie said. “Even if we can’t be present, we will be there any way we can. We love our community, and having that close-knit community of friends and family has been important to us.” SWM
This article was provided by the CNY Latino newspaper, the only Hispanic-oriented publication in Central New York. The Spanish version of this article can be read in the January edition of CNY Latino, in both the traditional paper version and the digital format at cnylatinonewspaper.com.