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Sara YonName: Sara Yon
Hometown: West New York, NJ
Major: Criminal Justice
"A complete culture shock" is how FSU senior, Sara Yon, remembers her transition from her native country, Peru to the United States in 1990. It was a tremendous leap of faith when her mother applied for a visa, and Sara believes it was merely "luck" that helped them be admitted into America. But as they settled into West New York, New Jersey, a small predominantly Hispanic community just outside of New York City, Sara didn't always feel so lucky. Aside from the obvious barriers of communication, Sara longed for the company of her Peruvian grandmother who she says, "kept me exposed to gymnastics, piano lessons, folklore dancing, and Catholic schooling".

"I consider myself lucky because much of my culture has been instilled in me, so I am very proud to be able to say I am from Peru. My pride comes from my grandmother, who basically raised me."

That inner void was never fulfilled as Sara tried to adjust, so she fled from her mother's home at the age of sixteen. Faced with homelessness, the self-described teen rebel was forced to enter the workforce; however, she is quick to note, "I never quit school."

"I got a job at the board of education doing administrative work, and I got a job at Dunkin Donuts. I worked two jobs until I graduated in 2000. I began applying for college, but I couldn't afford it. I just desperately said, 'I want to go to the Army.""

Sara consulted a recruiter and was sworn in on July 21, 2001 before she relocated to Fort Still, Oklahoma for basic training. She recalled, "We were the last females to train on that camp, and during that time, 911 happened...After that I was sent to do my Advanced Individual Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I successfully graduated, and they sent me to my first duty station, which was Fort Bragg."

At Fort Bragg, Sara was assigned to her first unit, which was Military Intelligence. In 2003, she attended Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia for three weeks. Never allowing her gender or petite frame to become hindrances, she began jumping with her unit in Fort Bragg once every three months, and has a total of 37 airborne jumps under her belt.

Even still, the desire to pursue a higher education never wavered, and in 2004, she graduated from Fayetteville Technical Community College with an associate's degree in general studies. After reenlisting in the Army, she was deployed in 2005, but did not serve because of a series of orthodontic surgeries. That same year she enrolled in FSU and in 2006, she applied for a scholarship and was chosen by a commanding general to receive the funding to complete her final two years as a criminal justice major. Sara gracefully exited the Army in 2006, and joined the ROTC.

"I enjoy FSU because it is a melting pot. This is my first time being at an HBCU, but people have really embraced me...When I went to hear Malcolm X's daughter [Ilyasah Shabazz] speak, it really had an impact on me because it made me aware of the struggles that minorities have to go through."

When speaking of her own struggles, Sara says she wants others to be inspired by her triumphs. "When I was sixteen and on my own, I had to fight the temptation of getting caught up into negative behavior. I knew I had to stay focused," she expressed.

She credits her friend, Heidy, for helping her conquer the hardships of a being a homeless teenager in the streets of Jersey. Having survived that experience, Sara acknowledges that perhaps all it takes is a sole individual to transform the life of another.

"I am hopeful that I can be an influence to others. Life brings challenges, but we have to overcome them so we can reach out to teach and mentor others. Sometimes all young people need is someone to listen. If you just take a second of your day to focus on someone else, you can make a difference."

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