To celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day, 18-year-old Viviana Alejandre shared her experience as a young woman navigating a new role of leadership on City in the Community’s Youth Leadership Council and the women that inspire her, and more with NYCFC.com.
Katie Cahalin: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you first get involved in City in the Community?
Viviana Alejandre: I was born in Mexico, but I moved here when I was three and I have lived here since then. I was introduced to Saturday Night Light’s through my cousin's girlfriend at the time. Then from there, I'd just been going to the program, made lots of friends. At the time, I didn't know that Saturday Night Lights was involved with New York City FC, and then I got invited to one of the games. I've always been a big soccer fan because of my dad.
KC: When you first started attending the Saturday Night Lights program, what as that experience like for you? How do you feel you benefitted from it?
VA: At first, I was just going for the soccer on Friday and Saturday nights in Manhattan. Then I got more involved in the program and I met Lily, Oumou, and the rest of the coaches. A little later into it, we had a tutoring program after school on Tuesdays with Lily, which was a lot of help during high school. Then I was introduced to Youth Leadership Council (YLC). I still am not the best soccer player. I try, though, that was the important part. It did help me develop soccer skills. But it also really helped me with my communication skills. At first, I was really reserved. I didn't really know anyone at the programs. I tend to shy away from people I don't know, and as I got more into the programs, I met so many more people and I became more open. I'm really happy that I've made the connections that I made up until now.
KC: After participating in the programs, you’ve now come full circle and became a member of the Youth Leadership Council in 2020. How have you adapted to stepping into this new leadership role?
VA: It’s been tricky, especially during COVID but it's been really awesome to have an impact on kids. I have a younger sister, and she basically follows in my footsteps in everything I do. It's really awesome to see people look up to you. It’s always difficult to explain that. You have some sort of power to affect the way they think and their personalities. It's been easy at times, but also difficult.
KC: Does that influence you have create added pressure?
VA: My mom always told me this: “Never back away from a challenge. Even if you fail, you get back up and you try again.” It's a challenge, but it’s a challenge that people should look forward to.
KC: How has the past year been within your role as a Young Leader with CITC? How have you adapted to the virtual space?
VA: It was different. I worked with RoboSoccer so that was a completely new experience for me. Since the pandemic started until the mid-summer, I was the student, and then all of a sudden, my card sort of flipped and I became the teacher. It was really it was weird to see both sides of the spectrum and understand both sides, but it's been difficult for sure.
KC: How are you navigating finding your voice as a young woman and as a leader? Who inspires you?
VA: I take admiration from women that have come before me. My mother, grandmother, and I definitely look up to a lot of women in sports like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan. I think it's important that we teach young women that anything is possible no matter the circumstances they’re in or what position they are put in. If we fight hard enough – and these women before us have fought for so long for us… It's pretty hard to put into words. It’s important to push forward and keep going with the motion that we have now.
KC: What do you want to accomplish in the future?
VA: I know a lot of people say this, but I want to be able to free my parents financially and be able to help my sister afford college and not scramble to look for scholarships and loans. I want to be able to help my parents financially, but I also want to be able to see them grow old and happy.
KC: Anything more you’d like to add?
VA: The YLC has already brought so many opportunities. Having this conversation with you is really awesome and it’s nice to be able to speak out about my journey as a woman.