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The 2022 Women of UD

Yamilet Perez Aragon

Yamilet Perez Aragon




Yamilet Perez Aragon remembers 2021 as an extension of 2020, and that, in and of itself, tried the limits of her internal strength. “As much as we all hate to hear ‘in these unprecedented times,’ it’s all we can really say about our individual experiences facing this pandemic.” Aragon defines strength, at this moment in time, as the ways in which one persists despite all the unexpected changes students have faced. In her particular case, these changes presented themselves in areas where she expected to have stability and reliable support. Sudden financial concerns created doubt that she would be able to continue her degree program. That, in turn, created worry that she would disappoint her family by not becoming the first member to attend and graduate from college. The worry is nearly constant for Argon because she has difficulty imagining “the possibility of a future when it seems like all the doors will be closing soon.” At this point, her strategy is to maintain her inner strength by continuing to work and plan, “all the while trusting that there will be a way to persevere. Success feels so much more rewarding when the odds are against you than when you have it handed to you.” She believes it is really important for her to keep clear sight of the future, “even when the present is getting really foggy.”

When Aragon finds the worry too exhausting, she tries to emulate the strength of others, and of her parents in particular. They left their home country of Mexico, traveling far from their own families, to create a better life for their children in “this unwelcoming foreign country.” Aragon remembers “how hard my father and mother have worked every day of their lives to keep their family safe and fed. When I want to complain about inconveniences, I remember the conditions in which they grew up and in which millions of people still live today.” She draws on this courage to reorient her thinking, and she says this helps her remind herself “how incredible and amazing it is just to have the opportunity to do this thing at all.”

Aragon tries to be mindful that her personal strength in persevering despite hardship and changes is needed by others around her as well. She tries to model her determination to keep working even when things are out of her control because she says, “We have to have each other’s backs and hold each other up.” She is keenly aware that students still need help, and because she believes crucial pathways for connection have been lost in the pandemic, she tries to adapt by working to create new ones. “Things may not be the way they used to be, but there is always something you can do to help someone else. The only task now is to figure out how those needs have shifted and what we can do to keep making sure everyone gets the resources they need.”

Empathy is paramount if everyone is to have the resources they need, Aragon says. “We see how these times have taken their toll everywhere and stopped the progress on a lot of projects, services, and programs.” She worries the biggest hurdle for the University community could be its inability to “get those going again.” It is important to her that a sense of “giving up” does not set in and pervade campus. “It’s easy to stay stuck in those limitations created by our conditions, so that what comes next is to not continue building them up ourselves.” Perhaps Aragon’s personal commitment – to “keep clear sight of the future, even when the present is getting really foggy” – is a harbinger for the University as well. 

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