ROTTERDAM — Zionna Perez-Tucker made her mark on the high school running track ovals throughout the Capital Region and beyond, along with standing up for friends, competitors and peers during her time at Mohonasen High School.
The Section II record holder in the girls’ 45-meter and 200-meter races earned a gold medal in the New York State Federation 100 race, and silver medals in the Division 1 100-, 200- and federation 200- capping her high school career earlier this month.
“There is always pressure,” Perez-Tucker said prior to the state meet. “There is always someone trying to beat me, especially with the excellent season I’ve had for indoor and outdoor so far.”
Perez-Tucker holds five Mohonasen records and won two state titles during the winter indoor season and still made time for her peers.
She is the 2022 Mighty Warriors senior class president, vice-president of the student council and an active member of the school’s No Place for Hate organization.
“I’ve been busy just keeping the senior class together because for the last two years, we have been separated due to COVID,” Perez-Tucker said. “Just trying to get everyone back together and get these festivities back on.”
The No Place for Hate club was a natural draw for Perez-Tucker.
“I’ve always been someone who sticks up for other people,” Perez-Tucker said. “I’ve been called the mom to the fun group so No Place for Hate was the club for me.”
With more than a dozen other students, Perez-Tucker looks out for others.
“I like being able to talk with others who also are very ambitious and know what’s right from wrong, and know what we can do to help other people,” Perez-Tucker said. “We fight for people who don’t want to or can’t speak up for themselves. No Place for Hate is perfect in being the voice for others who don’t have one.”
Perez-Tucker appreciates challenges her peers can face in the Mohonasen High School hallways.
“Especially with teens and how society is today, teens are so mean,” Perez-Tucker said. “I think you should start telling kids at a young age what’s right, what’s wrong, what you can do, what you shouldn’t do, what’s not necessary, what is necessary.”
The group is still small, but Perez-Tucker says No Place for Hate makes a difference.
“We’re loud about it,” Perez-Tucker said. “If someone asks, I know we’re all willing to help them, to better them and explain like what it is.”
She hopes the program will continue to expand.
“We’ve talked to people from other schools like Schenectady and Niskayuna,” Perez-Tucker said. “We talk about what we can do at our school to make it a safer and better place for everyone. I hope it expands and I would like to get more of our school involved, that would be pretty great.”
She was vocal and part of a protest among her track and field peers having a rule changed regarding female athletes wearing beads during competitions.
“It came from a ruling that seemed to just pick on people of color,” Perez-Tucker, who identifies as black, said. “In general an athlete was told the beads had to come out. But other girls, for only white girls, had barrettes, little hair bows, and other accessories. So why were they allowed? And not beads?”
Mohonasen track coach coach Bill Sherman supported the girls’ squad decision to wear beads at an upcoming meet in protest and filed a formal complaint with the New York State Public High School Athletic Association
“Even though I personally don’t wear beads in my hair anymore, when I was a kid, I did,” Perez-Tucker said. “I know cousins, family, and friends who did. It’s part of a culture, especially mine. We just had to find a way because getting loud and visible is not going to help us, so we took a calm but loud approach to it.”
One day later in executive session the NYSPHSAA lifted the prohibition on hair adornments.
Perez-Tucker is also a member of the Student Athletic Council that has visited the elementary schools as role models, participated in the annual Toys for Tots drive and volunteered at the City Mission.
“If there is someone who went through a tough time or lost something like their house or feeling that they don’t matter, if I could do something in my power to help give back to them and make them feel like they belong I will,” Perez-Tucker said.