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Thinking on her feet: Jackie Perez

Jackie Perez, photo by David Lopez
Photo by David Lopez

As far back as she can remember, Jackie Perez has loved sports. She grew up playing basketball, volleyball and baseball, and when she was just five years old, she started to dance. While they’re good for keeping fit and teaching teamwork, the thing that’s kept Jackie coming back to athletics all these years is their unpredictability.

“The thing I’ve always loved most about sports is that they teach you to adapt and think on your feet,” she says. Things can change in a moment, and you need to be ready to roll with the punches.

That passion for sports meant that when Jackie came to the University of Guelph-Humber to take media studies, she had her eyes set on a career in sports media. A few years later, now a host for a RogersTV show and the in-game host for the Toronto Argonauts, Jackie uses what she learned from sports and her time at UofGH, staying on her toes as she makes live news.

Jackie started at UofGH in 2004 and quickly got involved with student media. When she wasn’t in class or helping produce the student newspaper, she found time to become an orientation leader and helped first-year students transition to university life. When she graduated in 2008, Jackie was hired by UofGH as a recruitment officer and travelled across Ontario telling the university’s story to high school students. After that, she worked for the Mississauga News, and a few years later, Jackie saw an opportunity to take another step towards combining her love of sports and media and applied to be an Argonauts cheerleader.

“Since I got that job, I haven’t looked back,” she says. Year after year as a cheerleader, Jackie took on more responsibility. After a successful first season, Jackie was made a squad captain, after that, she stepped up to run their social media accounts.

     “There’s a lot of talk now about bullying, but kids don’t
     always know how to act, so it’s nice to have a chance to
     help and inspire them.”

“It was taking the foundations I learned at UofGH and using them to build the cheerleaders’ brand,” she says. “At UofGH I developed an eye for taking pictures, learned how to write a caption and to think about what to post to attract people and build a community. Because of my media education, I knew how to produce a video, shoot and edit it. I hadn’t done it before for the Argos, but I love to take on a challenge.”

Around that time, Jackie also started to host a RogersTV show called InSauga Live, spending more time producing broadcast work. When she had spent more time in front of the camera, Jackie was given the chance to step up to the role of In-Game Host. Now, on game days Jackie interviews fans and keeps the audience energized between plays.

While she’s happy to be in the sports media role she’s always wanted, Jackie says one of the most gratifying parts of the job doesn’t happen inside the stadium or in front of the camera. When the game isn’t on, Jackie volunteers with the Argonauts’ Huddle Up Bullying Prevention Program, going into Toronto schools to talk about the importance of self-esteem and the effects of bullying.

“It’s one of the reasons I joined the Argos. I like to get involved with the community and give back,” she says. “There’s a lot of talk now about bullying, but kids don’t always know how to act, so it’s nice to have a chance to help and inspire them.”

One of the parts of Huddle Up she’s proudest of is their program talking with girls about bullying and teasing. While people often think of a bully as someone big and tough who might steal lunch money, Jackie says that for girls, especially in grades 6-8, it takes a different shape.

“Girls are more prone to social bullying, where they’ll tease, spread rumours or exclude someone else,” she says. “When you’re 11 or 12, you’re still trying to figure out who you are and it’s important to show girls that they can be a different way.”

Whether she’s in the classroom, the TV studio or at the stadium, Jackie is using the skills she’s developed from her media education and a lifetime of sports to adapt to new situations and give back to the community.

“I get an opportunity to be a role model,” she says. “I get a chance to change the conversation.”

Learn more about Media Studies at UofGH