By Elizabeth Zakaim
There might not have been a dry eye in the Cromwell Hall lounge during Sigma Lambda Gamma’s “What Empowers You” event on Tuesday, March 8. The multicultural sorority hosted the event as part of its Women’s Appreciation Week and encouraged the women on campus to come together to open up about their role models and sources of empowerment.
“Sigma Lambda Gamma is an organization that believes in empowering women through academics, community service, cultural awareness, morals and ethics and social interaction,” senior political science major Dalmiry Puello said. Puello serves as the sorority’s Cultural Awareness and Scholarship Development chair. “We are new on campus and want to help the women at TCNJ feel more empowered to embrace who they are.”
Members of Sigma Lambda Gamma and other sororities on campus spoke at the event, acknowledging the different role models in their lives that have inspired them and helped them get to where they are today.
“Sigma Lambda Gamma does often advocate for women’s rights, being that it is our national vision to empower women to succeed academically, socially and culturally,” Puello said. “When we first wanted to create this event, we were thinking of putting together something to really make women at TCNJ feel included and empowered to embrace their gender.”
Senior business management major and Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority member Mayra Apurto was one of the speakers at the event. She spoke about how hard it was for her mother to move on after her father left them so suddenly, but also said that her mother has come a long way since then. Apurto’s mother plays an important role in her life because they supported each other through life’s challenges.
“She empowers me by constantly encouraging me to do the best I can and does her best to allow me to have many of the opportunities she did not have,” Apurto said. “I aspire to be at least half the woman she is because a woman who does not let life determine her future is someone to look up to. She does not let anything stop her (from achieving) what she wants.”
Apurto’s speech inspired others in the audience to share their stories with the audience, including junior Spanish major Amanda Hernandez.
“My mom tells me some stories of the struggles she had to go through to get to where she is today, and through that, I see how much of a strong and independent woman she had to be in order to have accomplished everything that she has,” Hernandez said.
Her mother left Honduras in order to come to the United States, where she believed she could better provide for her family.
“A year after I was born, she left me with my father and sisters to come to the United States to work and send money back home,” Hernandez said.
After some time, Hernandez’s mother was able to bring her to the U.S., but unfortunately had to leave her father and other siblings behind. The family has been split up ever since, she said.
“In 2001, we got our papers and came into the U.S. as residents while my siblings and father stayed in Honduras. After I got to New Jersey, I would go back to Honduras every two years,” Hernandez said.
Living this way took a lot of adjustment, she said.
“I spent most of my life away from my father and siblings, which was very hard because I never got to have what I would call a complete family,” Hernandez said. “My mother was not only a mom, but she was also a father to me.”
Hernandez told the audience that she admires her mother’s willfulness.
“Despite every wall she had to face and every obstacle making her feel like she was lost at sea, she still made it,” Hernandez said. “Because of her, today I get an education and I am motivated to be the best woman I can be.”
“What Empowers You” was the perfect outlet for women, like Hernandez, Apurto and so many others, to speak about the struggles their families went through to get them to where they are today. For the most part, the spotlight fell on their mothers, whom worked diligently to provide for and encourage these young women to do their best and pursue their dreams relentlessly.
“I think it is important for someone to have a role model because we all need some type of guidance,” Hernandez said. “I grew so much as a person after I found a reason to be a better me and after I realized why my mother worked so hard all throughout her life. Having a role model that empowers you gives you a reason to thrive in life and make your goals and dreams into a reality.”