When Marjorie Perry rises, she shines.  

“The thought of, ‘What difference can I make today?’ motivates me every day,” she says. “My motto is, ‘I’m here to serve.’”

 In August 2022, her passion for service was further illuminated when Perry became a college success coach with Take Stock in Children, a program that helps students who might not ordinarily have the means for higher education obtain a mentor and a four-year scholarship as early as in the sixth grade. Eligible middle-school students and their parents sign contracts. Students pledge to stay in school and out of trouble while maintaining a C average. They are paired with a mentor with whom they meet weekly. And the program handles the rest, raising money from the community to fund as many scholarships as there are eligible students in Monroe County using the Florida Prepaid College program that locks in tuition rates when the scholarships are purchased, even if the student won’t be attending college for another several years.

“I change the lives of students while teaching them self-advocating skill sets,” Perry says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to follow my lifelong passion of helping those at risk of being left behind or forgotten.”

Prior to her work with TSIC, Perry worked with federal government information infrastructure protection for more than 25 years. 

“I led the information systems management team in the U.S. Department of State for several years,” Perry says, adding that she worked regularly with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top federal officials. 

She is now paying it forward to a new generation of workforce-ready professionals.

“I hope to connect them to our community youth to design a win-win solution,” she says.

The Portsmouth, Virginia native arrived in the Florida Keys in 2015 to manage a former mentee’s cybersecurity contract at Truman Annex. Her intention was to stay six months, but she bought a home in Big Pine Key a year later, and lives there now with her 3-year-old pit bull, Negan.

“I’ve discovered that you’re never too old to have fun, that no one in the Keys rushes for anything or anybody, so adjust your time accordingly,” she said. “And life is way too short not to appreciate the beauty surrounding me every day that many folks take for granted.” 

She is a Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce and Rotary member and a member of Road Diva, one of the oldest motorcycle clubs in the country, and participates in charity rides such as Samaritan Shoes. 

“We would ride into town, sit folks down to personally wash their feet, then place new socks and shoes on those we served in that community,” she says. “It was one of the more humbling events in my life.”

If there’s time left after all that, Perry  goes fishing, supports friends who perform or facilitate events throughout the Keys, and visits family in Virginia, Tennessee and Massachusetts.

She asks those who might have two to four hours a month to consider the Take Stock In Children program, as they are always in need of mentors who can change a student’s life over lunch with a friendly ear and an open mind. 

Contact her at  [email protected] for details. Be sure to ask her about the difference engagement makes. 

“The results of my actions are reflected in each life I’ve touched,” she says. “Every night, when the events of the day flash in my mind’s eye, I ask myself with a smile on my face, ‘Did I do that?’  My answer is, ‘Yes, you did.’”

Quick Questions with Marjorie Perry

What’s something you’d like to learn? I would love to get my pilot’s license.

Who is your hero?  Wonder Woman. She’s the total package. But a real-life hero is Colin Powell, who would tell me when he saw I was having a bad day, ‘Get mad, then get over it. It’s not as bad as you may think. Things will look better in the morning.’”Words to live by? You never know how a smile will change a person’s day

Cricket Desmarais is an MFA Creative Writing graduate from NYU who came to Key West “for now” when her mother lived here in 1997. The marine ecology, arts, & community make her stay. She joins her two teens each evening for homework—hers for the Marine Resource Management program at CFK, where she graduates with a B.S. in spring 23. Shout out to her at [email protected] to recommend people we should meet.