By Jesika Millano
AL DIA TODAY
VIERA – Starting all over again with a new life sounds like a good idea, but when you arrive in a brand new country with empty hands and not knowing the language, it can quickly become a terrifying experience. Some are left with two options: chicken out and head back home, or be brave and push forward.
It was the second option that Patricia Pérez decided on when facing some of the hardest moments of her life.
Tough as it was, it was also the happiest as she did it all while pursuing the American Dream. Perez said it was this deep conviction that she was making the right decision for her and her daughter that drove her.
Her daughter was Karenina Aponte, who was born in Valparaiso, Chile but spent her childhood in Viña del Mar.
“Sometimes I reflect on when we left Chile. I had lived in the United States when I was young and it always seemed like a place full of opportunities for me and my daughter one day in the future, and it would also mean a big change for me,” shared Pérez.
She describes that her life took a complete 180-degree turn in the other direction when she moved to the U.S.
Back in her country Perez had a successful business for over 15 years, but in the U.S., she found herself cleaning houses and working in stores and hotels.
Karenina Aponte was 11 years old at the time. During her elementary years in Chile, Aponte did outstanding in school and received many awards and certificates, according her mother.
“At first it was really hard to have to endure a complete change in language but she was able to build off of the great foundation that she had in Chile and continued to excel in the U.S. She graduated from Cocoa Beach High School with honors and received two scholarships for college. I got my Phlebotomist and Nurse Practitioner certification and worked in the medical field for many years but for health reasons I recently switched to the field of electronics…I currently work assembling and welding in electrical circuits,” said Patricia Pérez.
Today, at almost 30-years old, Perez’ daughter has two Associates’ Degrees. The first degree was in the arts, and the second in legal assistance, both from what was then Brevard Community College. She went on to get a Bachelors in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida and recently graduated with a master’s degree in Mental Health Therapy from Webster’s University.
She is also the assistant to Brevard Circuit Judge Nancy Maloney, and her job entails preparing and maintaining the judge’s court and professional calendar, as well as scheduling and coordinating motions, hearings and conferences.
Aponte describes the process of adapting to the U.S. as a difficult one. “The goal was to learn a second language and the worst part was being far away from my family and culture.” But without a doubt, she confirms that she has been able to achieve all of her goals thanks to the loving support of her mother Patricia and her husband Daniel. “Without them, I don’t know where I would be right now. They are my daily motivation,” Aponte said.
To her mother, Aponte possesses a sort of emotional intelligence that is incredibly valuable and that has allowed her to be victorious in many different situations in her life. “My daughter Karenina is always thinking of ways to help other people.”
Karenina Aponte agrees and describes herself by saying: “I like to help others”. She says that her goal for a future project is to have a private practice where she can give mental health therapy.
“My passion for this field began when I worked as a secretary in the Tribunal and I observed the cases. It was interesting to listen to the testimonies of the psychologists, therapists, and of the accused to see how people have changed through the help of the therapists. Unfortunately, it’s not like that in all cases, but I believe that if a person really wants to change, they will with dedication, strength, and support from those around them,” she added.