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Making the connection

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Noemi Perez (MSL 2019) uses skills learned at USC Gould to broker agreement between national sorority and National Parks Service

By Matthew Kredell

Noemi Perez credits USC Gould with helping her broker the partnership and write the language for an MOU.

Shortly after completing her online Master of Studies in Law degree at USC Gould last year, Noemi Perez realized she could put her new skills to use by linking her sorority to the National Park Service.

As 2020 approached, Perez wanted to do something special to help commemorate the 100th year of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority. The sorority was formed at Howard University in 1920 by five African American women who wanted to focus more on addressing social causes than socializing.

Perez connected Zeta’s and the National Park Service’s (NPS) common interest in preserving the nation’s African American cultural resources.

“I thought, ‘What better way for the sorority to celebrate its centennial than to collaborate with the National Park Service and learn about the phenomenal African American women who have come through the organization?’” Perez says.

Shepherding an idea from start to finish

Perez’s idea sprang from her previous employment with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where she help implement national partnerships with African-American and Latino stakeholder groups.

Perez pitched the partnership to the sorority and NPS. Over five months, she brokered the partnership and wrote the language for a memorandum of understanding.

 “Fundamental to the agreement were the skills I learned at USC Gould in brokering relationships, negotiating deals and the technical side of building out a partnership between nonprofits and non-government agencies,” Perez says.

The five-year agreement provides a framework to promote the study of NPS national and cultural resource preservation and management to African American women and other diverse groups, and actively engage African American participation in NPS work.

Key facets of the MOU include:

Zeta will promote the awareness of the NPS mission, national parks and engagement opportunities to its membership, youth affiliates and partnership groups.

Zeta will foster targeted engagement and communication between members and local chapters with specific NPS facilities and officials.

Zeta will provide NPS with access to organizational resources including its youth auxiliaries and collegiate chapters to help the agency better engage with African-Americans and other diverse groups.

NPS will make land, facilities and staff available to the greatest extent feasible for the furtherance of the MOU while providing opportunities for Zeta to work in partnership on coordinated outreach efforts.

NPS will provide information on national parks, cultural sites, natural resource management issues, opportunities for qualified African American leaders to serve on local NPS community task forces or other stakeholder groups and other related career opportunities to the African American community.

NPS will pursue outreach efforts with African American women and young girls. 

“This partnership establishes a framework for our two organizations to work together toward our shared goal,” says George McDonald, chief director of youth programs for NPS.

“I am looking forward to NPS sites across the country providing opportunities for African American women and young girls to get involved, explore career opportunities, and learn about how NPS protects and preserves cultural resources.”

Perez, who does freelance consulting work in government relations and corporate citizenship, became involved in Zeta as an undergraduate at USC in 1996. She appreciated the values the organization placed on womanhood and education while welcoming diversity in background and thought.

“I give all praise to USC Gould”

Perez credited classes she took at USC Gould in contract drafting, law fundamentals and dispute resolution in helping her write the MOU. USC Gould Lecturer in Law Shawn Sullivan remembered Perez’ enthusiasm in the contract drafting class he taught.

"Noemi entered the class already having some experience in drafting contracts and showed a lively interest in deepening her knowledge and skills,” Sullivan says. “It was wonderful having her in the class, because she participated actively in our live sessions and brought valuable insights. She even helped me, as the instructor, to see some things about contracts differently.”

Perez is most proud that the MOU was approved by NPS in just three weeks without any changes.

“They said it was the fastest something has ever gone through a thorough legal review at the agency,” Perez says. “That’s exactly the type of value that I expected to receive from Gould and returning to school. For that to come from a federal agency, navigating through multiple layers of bureaucracy, I give all the praise to USC Gould.”

Perez is excited to see what comes from the partnership between Zeta and NPS.

“At the end of the day, the partnership really is about them,” Perez says. “I’m looking forward to the wonderful work that they will produce that will not only be a benefit to that organization but American history.”

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