Women We Love: Dayanara Perez

Women We Love: Dayanara Perez

 

You are in charge of ensuring your own success and happiness.

- Dayanara Perez

 

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This month's Women We Love is Dayanara Perez. Dayanara is an independent and hardworking woman. She grew up in Washington Heights, and is the first of her siblings to graduate from college leading the way as a good role model. Dayanara is a Big Sister mentor and a board member in the Good Shepherd Program. A true testament to giving back to her community. She is also a homeowner since her late 20´s and shows us that you can go after all you want. We decided to choose Dayanara Perez as the Women We Love this month because we've partnered with her on various occasions and really enjoyed what she has to offer back to the community. We not only respect her on a personal level, but also on a business level. She has taught each of us life lessons that we will guard for the rest of lives. We are big fans of her work and all her recent endeavors as a role model and philanthropist.

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As many of us know, life and goals don't always go as planned. At the age of 9, her dream was to become a lawyer. She was always able to argue her points effectively and loved to never be wrong. Throughout her high school and college years, she maintained the goal of being an attorney.  It wasn't until her senior year of high school that she saw a job post in her school that mentioned an opportunity to work for Coach. Being naive to the fashion world, she did not realize until she arrived at the address that it was actually the handbag company, Coach, Inc.  She was hired as an intern within Coach’s Legal Department, specifically in the Intellectual Property Department. Like many her age, she didn't know this kind of law existed until then.  After her internship, she was still determined to follow her dream of becoming an attorney. During her first year of law school, after getting a dose of what the attorney role was, she decided it wasn't at all what she wanted for herself. Dayanara explains, "people can spend years and years of their life thinking they want to pursue one specific path and it doesn't quite work out that way - that's life for you!" She still ended up in the legal field as a paralegal, which she learned that she enjoys much more.  For the past 9 years and counting, she has been fortunate enough to work in legal departments within fashion houses without having to work in a law firm first (a rare feat in the legal field)!

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When asked if she could name anyone who had a tremendous impact in her life, Dayanara mentioned how she's been blessed with amazing individuals, but her parents, especially her mother, are the ones who helped her become the woman she is today. Her mother instilled the importance of perseverance, determination, and focus in achieving what she wanted in life. Although her parents are both immigrants from the Dominican Republic, they still both managed to obtain Bachelor degrees from Mercy College. As parents, you are supposed to set examples for your children to learn from and follow your steps in bettering themselves and their future. It's always a challenge when someone moves from one country to another. Her parents faced a lot of adversity – English as a second language, adapting to a new culture and lifestyle in New York, and not being considered competitive candidates in the job market - through all of this, they pushed through and did not stop until they had professions that could sustain themselves and a family. Not only in Dayanara's eyes but also in our eyes, they are truly the definition of people that achieved the American dream. One of the biggest lessons her mother taught her was the importance of home ownership. As the cost of living continues to increase in NYC, her mother encouraged her to apply to cooperatives to put herself in a position to become a homeowner. The fact that renters pay thousands of dollars for a home that really isn't theirs can be shocking. Being she was raised to be an independent woman, she did everything in her power to own her own home. Even with the great success her parents had, there were a lot of things she still had to learn on her own that school doesn't teach you.

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In life, people cross your path for many reasons. Another one of the most influential people in her professional life was her manager at Coach, April. She helped her learn the ins and outs and developed her talents - some she didn't even realize she had until April pointed it out for her. A lot of these skills don't come as easily to others. She taught her how to have a thick skin in this industry and not be an open book. Since the age of 17, April has been present in her life providing advice and guidance in navigating a legal career within fashion companies. One of the best advice Dayanara provided us was to keep going. No matter how hard it may seem, push through it. It usually gets really hard right before something great comes your way!  With anything, you are responsible for your life and everything that you want, including happiness. If something isn't going how you want, then make changes to get to where you want to be. You are in charge of ensuring your own success and happiness.

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After graduating college, she realized that she wanted to share her life lessons with others. About 8 years ago, she became a big sister through the Catholic Big Brother Big Sister program. Her first encounter with Good Shepherd Services was when she joined a fashion house that had a corporate volunteering program. She worked with the kids helping them learn about different places like France and Egypt or doing arts and crafts like creating masks for their carnival.  
She became one of the founding members of the Good Shepherd Services Springboard, whose goal is not only to further the Good Shepherd mission of going where others won't go and to create opportunities that help participants of the program succeed at school, at home, and in their community, but also to raise awareness about the organization with young professionals such as ourselves. "As a founding member, it feels great to have the opportunity to not only learn how a non-profit works, but also to help shape and mold what the board activities and events will entail." (For more information :  - www.goodshepherds.org)

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In the long run, Dayanara plans on opening a youth center that will provide a safe haven for kids of all ages and walks of life. It will be a place where kids can receive free services from tutoring, to legal service, to counseling, to sports, and everything in between.  As time passes by, a lot of these centers no longer exist. The closing of these centers leaves hundreds of kids without a nearby recreational space outside of the home. Her hardest obstacle is maintaining a balance between being selfless vs. selfish and time management vs. procrastination between her personal and professional life. When being pulled in different directions, things can be tough, especially when trying to please everyone. Oftentimes, we find ourselves putting the needs of others before our own and because of this she has learned how to make time for herself, which includes taking dance lessons, boxing classes, meditation and yoga. We often lose track of what we want and need for ourselves.

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Maintaining a daily motivation and inspiration can often be challenging when obstacles/setbacks come across our way. After witnessing her mother's challenges in life, she taught her to never settle for anything less than what makes her truly and deeply happy. If a job or workplace makes you unhappy and/or dissatisfied, then it is your business to look for a new opportunity. If you are doing what you love, you will be great at it and the money will come on its own. Mental health is just as important as physical.

"What keeps me going every day is knowing that I've been fortunate and blessed to never have needed for anything, to have had such a strong network of people around me constantly being supportive and encouraging of my choices. It wasn't until much later in life that I realized how valuable those things can be when growing up in the “hood”.

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