East Boston Zone facilitator Dave Arinella has helped many athletes succeed in academics over the years. But none, he says, like senior Jonathan Perez.
Because of Perez's hard work and character, Arinella nominated him for Boston Scholar Athlete’s October Player of the Month, and Perez became the first from East Boston to win the award.
“He’s very outgoing, well-liked, and respected by teachers and his peers,” Arinella said. “He’s also a very talented soccer player and has been playing for a long time.
"When I was asked two weeks back to nominate a player of the week, there were several, but he was one of the most outstanding choices.”
The energetic Perez has been working hard since the first day of school and was thrilled to be chosen.
“I was so happy when I found out,” Perez said. “It showed me that all my hard work actually pays off.”
Perez works with Arinella at The Zone, a quiet place for athletes to study. His dedication to improving his GPA shows in his flawless attendance.
“Third period, every day,” he said. “I get help with calculus and English, those are the two subjects I struggle with. The work I put in [at the Zone] really shows on my progress reports.”
He also credited Arinella, swim coach of 33 years and Zone facilitator, for a big part of his improvement.
“Coach Dave has helped me so that I don’t need to worry too much about my work and I can just focus on soccer,” he said. “He motivates me and comes to all of my games.”
This is Perez’s first year receiving assistance from Arinella in the Zone, and he wishes he had known about it earlier. He decided to get help this year to improve his GPA to make sure he was eligible to play soccer this season and get accepted to college.
“I sat down with him last year and said, 'If you plan on college, you need to do better,' ” said boys' soccer coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto. “Since Day One, he’s gone in to get help with Coach Dave. He loves school, attends every day, and does all of his work. It shows academically and on the field.”
Perez hasn’t had to worry about eligibility this season, since he now has a GPA of 3.0. Di Benedetto looks at his academic success as a blessing, as Perez is one of the strongest players on offense.
“He’s scored key goals in the last couple weeks, nine total,” said the coach. “He helps pick up on offense. He’s a go-getter with initiative. He has really improved, and his teammates noticed, too.”
Both Di Benedetto and Arinella foresee a bright future for Perez, who would like to attend either Merrimack College or UMass-Amherst to study architecture next year.
“A lot of kids that come out of East Boston, all they need is an opportunity,” Di Benedetto said. “He’s making his own.”
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