2022 Senior Series: Keleigh Pereira

Keleigh Pereira shares insight from her time at UMass Amherst
Keleigh Pereira
Keleigh Pereira

“I currently work as the director of the Three County Continuum Care at Community Action Pioneer Valley. We oversee the system of care for people experiencing homelessness in Berkshire, Hampshire, and Franklin counties in Western Mass. We provide funding and project oversight to local and regional organizations for housing and supportive services; manage the entry and access to these programs; and I collaborate with various agencies in these regions that work on providing shelter and care. We address the needs for equity measures for people experiencing homelessness among various populations and how they are being served. We also help to lead a systematic effort toward hounding homelessness in this geographic region.

University Without Walls has made a huge impact on my life. I did several years of college in my early 20s, but I didn’t finish, which has held me back from a lot of roles and positions that have required a degree, which I didn’t have. In my professional life, many positions I've held required education I didn’t have, and I was lucky to be able to work myself up and make a reputation for myself that served me well. When I went back to school, I did that strictly because it felt like it was required of me to feel secure in my future and employment. What I really learned through UWW is that I already had all of this knowledge and experience and expertise that I have been able to use. It has helped me in informing an alternative education path, and I've been able to inform my work in systems change through my time at UWW."

I hope to be able to run for office. It may start as a town council ultimate dream would be to be a Senator.

Keleigh Pereira

It has really helped me to form language and perspective in what I understand of the world and how it's valued. We’re in a world where education is a privilege; it’s financially draining, but with UWW that wasn’t the case. I was able to get a lot of credits for a portfolio that I wrote about my life. Who gets to do that? Who gets to write a portfolio about themselves and what they know and understand, their personal and professional impact, and why that is valuable? I got to demonstrate what I already knew and was able to learn so much more.

I hope to be able to run for office. It may start as a town council role or something else local. My ultimate dream would be to be a legislator. I can see myself running for a position in the house for Massachusetts or as a Senator. It really depends on what presents itself in my future but it’s what I see myself doing.

Going back to school as an adult when you recognize that you have a lot of gaps in your education is nerve-racking. What school looked like in my early 20s and what it looks like now is very different, and that was something that held me back from going back for a long time because it scared me. Honestly, It’s really the best thing I ever did. I got to both gain and fill some of those gaps in my understanding, and I also got to learn that I made it this far for a reason, and that I had a lot to offer other students, to my community, to myself. In addition, Julie Skogsbergh is the biggest gift in the world! I am so thankful for the ways she reminded me of my power, my gifts, and the belief that I could accomplish this."

Keleigh Pereira '22 is a University Without Walls student, mother of two, and the program director of Three County Continuum Care for Community Action Pioneer Valley. A housing equity and HUD regulations expert, she has been fighting for housing rights for 15 years. She is also a graduate of the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact — a program of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts designed to train women to run for office — and was a commissioner for the Hampshire-Franklin Commission on the Status of Women and Girls for Massachusetts. Her ultimate dream is to someday be a legislator.

Then and Now: Senior Series

Now in its fourth year, the UMass Amherst Senior Series celebrates the remarkable stories of the university's graduating class. Take a peek at the stories from the last four years below.