"Transformative Leader" Selected as First Recipient of Theresa Perez Memorial Scholarship

Lydia Fergison
Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Lydia Fergison, principal of North K-8 Language Academy and education doctoral student, is the first recipient of the Theresa Perez Memorial Scholarship.

Funded by faculty, staff and friends of UNC Charlotte, the scholarship was created to honor the late Cato College of Education faculty member and dedicated community activist who led the establishment of the teaching english as a second language programs.

Fergison, one of  Perez's former students, ​​previously served as the principal at Newell Elementary. She has successfully led previous schools to high-academic growth, and presented at state and national conferences on school leadership. She is a graduate of UNC Charlotte’s Master of Arts in Teaching English as a Second Language program, and is currently a doctoral student in the Curriculum and Instruction program with a focus on urban literacy.

“Recipients of the Theresa Perez Memorial Scholarship must demonstrate a deep level of commitment to the promotion of equity and the advocacy for english learners. Under Dr. Perez's mentorship, Lydia dedicated her professional career to the education of immigrant children and their families,” said Lan Kolano, chair of the Department of Middle, Secondary, and K-12 Education. “As a principal, she has been a transformative leader in the promotion of social justice throughout all of the schools that she has served.”

In 1998, Perez was recruited from California to Charlotte to establish the teaching english as a second language program. She continued to serve as a tireless advocate for educational equity for immigrants in Charlotte for 14 years and retired from UNC Charlotte in 2012. 

In California, Perez was the first Latina to run for the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. She retired in 2012 and returned to Fresno after being diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Perez died in 2019.

“As the first recipient of the Theresa Perez Memorial Scholarship, Lydia will honor the life’s work of Dr. Perez through the numerous lives she will continue to touch as a teacher, leader, scholar, and advocate,” Kolano said.