URI’s Noelani Perez named national ‘Major of the Year’ by SHAPE America

KINGSTON, R.I. – Feb. 27, 2024 – Noelani Perez ’24 has been chosen as a Major of the Year recipient by the SHAPE America Society of Health and Physical Educators. The award celebrates outstanding undergraduate students in the health, physical education, recreation, and dance professions.

Perez, a health and physical education major at the University of Rhode Island, will be honored during a ceremony at the organization’s 138th national convention on March 12 in Cleveland, Ohio. 

Perez was nominated for the award by URI’s College of Education’s Health and Physical Education faculty.

A native of Nyack, New York, Perez will receive a bachelor’s of science degree in education at URI’s May 19 commencement exercises.

Perez co-founded the Aspiring Educators of Rhode Island (AERI), a student-led extension of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, to create a unified student voice in teacher preparation programs. The group provides members with professional development and networking opportunities, while promoting human and civil rights in educational settings, and advocating for higher standards of education preparation.

“By actively developing a state-wide collegiate aspiring educators organization, my peers and I have sought to broaden our reach and create a supportive network for future educators,” said Perez.

Perez also marched on the Rhode Island State Capitol for Lobby Day, to advocate for the interests and concerns of aspiring educators in teacher preparation programs.

To help create a supportive and informed environment for on-campus residents, Perez hosted several health education initiatives in collaboration with URI’s Heath Services, with programs that focused on stress management, mental health awareness, safe sex practices, to create a supportive and informed environment for on-campus residents.

Perez is a frequent participant at national conferences that promote physical literacy and cross-curricular teaching. The conferences, she said, provide “invaluable experiences to enrich my understanding of the educational landscape, emphasizing the importance of advancing inclusive and racially, socially just environments within the field of education.” She also volunteered as a member of the harvest team for the URI Free Farmer’s Market— a URI initiative dedicated to providing fresh, locally grown produce from URI gardens to the campus community. 

“It is amazing what Noelani has accomplished in such a short amount of time at URI, and in the field of Health and Physical Education. She will surely make a positive impact on her future students’ lives,” said Emily Clapham, URI professor of physical education. 

Perez added that, “Receiving this award is not just a personal achievement, but a shared success with those who have inspired and guided me along the way. I am truly grateful for the professional development opportunities and knowledge that URI has afforded me, and I am excited to start a new chapter in my professional career as a health and physical educator.”

SHAPE America is the nation’s largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals. Since its founding in 1885, the organization has defined excellence in physical education. Its national standards for K-12 physical education serve as the foundation for well-designed physical education programs across the country. SHAPE America provides programs, resources, and advocacy to support health and physical educators at every level, from preschool to university graduate programs.