Hospitalized South Dade High School principal Javier Perez was unable to attend the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2016. He is still recovering from near-fatal injuries that resulted in the amputation of both his legs after he was run over by a drunk driver.
In lieu of congratulating and handing out diplomas to the 680 students Monday, Perez sent an inspirational message. A photo of Perez was displayed at the University of Miami’s Bank Atlantic Center and assistant principal J.C. De Armas read the speech that included these words from Perez:
“This school year our theme was Mission Possible, which derived from a quote by Tommy Lasorda: ‘The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.’ I urge each and every one of you to always remember that determination is the deciding factor in everything that you do in life. To be successful you must be determined to overcome obstacles and challenges. To become effective leaders tomorrow you must be determined to achieve greatness. The future is no longer a distant reality. It begins here. It begins today. As adults you must rise to your responsibility and give something back for all that you’ve been given.”
Many students wore bow ties in honor of Perez, who always wore a bow tie to work.
Perez, 43, was seriously injured April 26, when a drunk driver plowed through a chain-link fence and careened onto the Tamiami Park baseball diamond where Perez was coaching his 5-year-old son’s team. Perez pushed a friend out of the way of the GMC Envoy and yelled at the players to run. He was hit and pinned beneath the SUV. Doctors had to amputate both his legs, one below the knee, one above. He also suffered hip, hand and internal injuries.
Perez, father of two, and an avid runner and baseball player and coach, is recovering at Kendall Regional Hospital where wife Mayte is by his side. She is the CAP counselor at Ronald Reagan High.
Students held a bingo benefit in Homestead and a 5K race in Hialeah to raise money for Perez’s medical bills. He is a 20-year employee of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Driver Marilyn Aguilera, 51, a dental assistant, is under house arrest for DUI. She failed roadside sobriety tests. Police found an open can of beer in her SUV. Blood tests one hour after the accident showed her blood-alcohol content was .227, almost three times above the limit of .08.