Cheryl Perkins DiGiovanni

Educator making an impact on the lives of many BOCES students

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2008 Healthcare Heroes
Cheryl Perkins DiGiovanni

One of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon a teacher is the praise and respect of her students. BOCES Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention & Services (APPS) educator Cheryl Perkins DiGiovanni has no shortage of either.

Perkins DiGiovanni was nominated by no fewer than 10 individuals, most of whom are students upon whose lives she's left a positive impact. As an APPS educator, she is tasked with working with teenagers and the community to plan and implement a wide array of programs from Comprehensive Reproductive Education and Counseling to the Teen Outreach Program. "Teen pregnancy is a huge community health problem in Oswego County," says Perkins DiGiovanni, whose programs are aimed at combating the trend. Among the tactics adopted by Perkins DiGiovanni is peer counseling, which arms students with useful, accurate information that they will then disseminate throughout their friends' circles.

Perkins DiGiovanni also serves on the advisory committee for the Oswego County Teen Health Conference and the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month—Oswego County Observation (May). She is also chairperson of the Cancer Prevention Committee for the 2008 Relay for Life in Parish. Prior to joining BOCES, she worked with Oswego's Youth Bureau, helping to coordinate its anti-smoking campaign, Reality Check. She's personally developed new lessons and workshop presentations on sexual harassment, media influences, sex in the media, healthy relationships and contraception. "I consider Cheryl to be a resource for health information, but I am not alone," says APPS program coordinator Linda Eagan. "I believe Cheryl is a real force in the reduction of teen pregnancy in Oswego County."

Perkins DiGiovanni says she values the long-lasting relationships she's built with students.
"They feel I'm a non-judgmental person," she says. "[I] listen to them and help them make healthy, informed decisions." After her classes and workshops, Perkins DiGiovanni solicits feedback from students. After a January session at G. Ray Bodley High School, 97 percent (33) of the 34 students who attended her lesson said they learned something that would help them make healthy decisions. Of those, 71 percent said they would share the information they learned with a friend.

Outside of the classroom, her work involves both group and one-on-one counseling sessions with students who request information about romantic and sexual relationships. High school junior JennaLyn Ehlers says she looks forward to seeing Perkins DiGiovanni each week. "She's always there when you need someone to talk to," says Ehlers.

Student Alicia Vaun agrees. Vaun approached Perkin DiGiovanni to learn more about her reproductive health. "Cheryl has made a great impact in my life," says Vaun.

"She has taught me that you don't have to think a certain way about things, that it's OK to have different views," says student Kiaya Cali.

For Perkins DiGiovanni, it's all in a day's work. "I do my job because I love my job," she says. "I never get tired of it."
(By Chris Motola)