Student Leadership Conference Leads to Personal Transformation: Iris Perez reflects on her time at NCCWSL
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Publish Date: Nov. 30, 2016

Photo of Iris Perez

I never thought I would leave California, let alone leave my 2-year-old son, travel to the opposite end of the U.S. to a beautiful university and learn how to belly dance. Thanks to a scholarship from the AAUW Redlands chapter and my participation in the joint “Elect Her” Conference with AAUW, Crafton Hills and the University of Redlands earlier this year, that’s exactly what I did.

On behalf of Crafton Hills College, I was given the opportunity to attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders (NCCWSL), in June. I attended lots of interesting workshops on body image, diversity, personal growth, succeeding under pressure, and more. I met women with different opinions and feedback. Women with different interests and thoughts on various topics. It was amazing listening to them because they were so passionate. It was awesome meeting them and hearing their perspectives on things whether we agreed or disagreed.

The keynote speaker, Hilary Corna, shared her personal story and her experience studying abroad and learning to speak Japanese. Listening to her speak about her challenges living abroad and almost giving up was very inspiring.

She chose to follow her dreams instead and found herself with the opportunity to work with Toyota Motor Asia Pacific in Singapore as the “One White Face,” of the company (which happens to be the title of her first book). Hearing how she was able to succeed made me feel that anything can happen when you set your mind to it. She showed me that when you are the one to go out there and make your dreams come true, your life can be such an amazing self-fulfilling prophecy.

Another life changing moment was the “How your haters make you greater” workshop led by Joan Maze. She is a very strong-minded African American woman who taught me that “I don’t have to like you to respect you.” This quote has been in my head ever since then because it reminds me that for years now women in a male dominated working environment still get disrespected, still get unequal pay, and still get rejected. I learned that those feelings should not get in the way. No matter what, you can’t stop trying to get to the top all because you don’t like someone. Joan taught me to always be professional during any situation, and how to handle a situation where “haters” try to stand in my way.

During my trip to NCWSSL, I learned to grow and to evolve instead of changing myself. A lot of people tend to change their mindset based off other people’s opinions. I learned not to do that to myself. Instead, I will listen with an open mind, take in what’s being said and take it apart to try to understand it even more. I will not change myself, instead I will teach myself to be my own leader. --Iris Perez