Jessie Perez to Speak at Elevate Northern Michigan Mental Health Summit

I was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan on the shores of Bowers Harbor. I grew up living in a bed & breakfast always meeting new and interesting people. I was raised by peace activists and environmentalists that also ate tofu, practiced yoga and put their hearts into protecting the planet. Real hippies.

As a child, I spent many days exploring the woods behind my house, wandering the beach and building elaborate Barbie houses with my sisters. My passions are family, running, being outdoors, traveling with my husband, working with youth and advocating for others. I love being in, on or near water and could not ever see myself living away from The Great Lakes.

I’ve always gravitated toward helping others. I’ve been working with individuals with disabilities and mental health conditions since I was in high school. I coordinated a program at a local gym helping people with disabilities workout. I graduated from Aquinas College with a social work degree and spent five years working at Community Ministries developing programs for inner-city youth in a neighborhood with the highest police activity.

Being near Lake Michigan eventually called me back to Traverse City and I worked at Disability Network/Northern Michigan for 17 years developing and implementing programs for high school students with disabilities.

During that time I also created and expanded a hands-on life skills curriculum for youth, created programs for veterans and advocated for more accessible social/recreational activities for people with disabilities.

It always felt a part of me to help others learn more about their strengths and build their own skillset as individuals. No matter what the challenge. I’m certified in motivational interviewing, a communication technique used to create behavior change. As well as a certified Behavioral Health Coach through IFIOC. (Institute for Individual and Organizational Change.) I’ve most recently worked as a consultant with a homeless youth program and Stride Autism center.

During covid, my dad and I (and siblings) built a little side hustle doing book promotions for local authors in Michigan called Watervisions Media. My main gig is a busy mom of 5. Which also makes me an executive chauffeur and constant schedule manager.

I am currently employed at NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) working as the navigator providing ongoing support to families and individuals in a mental health crisis.

The most important thing is to listen to people. When necessary, I assist them with finding their voice to advocate for themselves and their needs, connect them to resources in the community or if not available then sometimes outside of our community and I help them build their own mental health toolbelt. That they can lean into when resources are not available.

I’m a trauma survivor, have lived with anxiety most of my life and have many loved ones with mental health conditions. It touches all of us.


Reservation for this mental health summit is free but required: goodworkslab.org/elevate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s