Ysabel Truijillo ’19 is Wellness Resource Center Paraprofessional. We met in upstairs Worner to chat about her perspectives on Colorado College pre and post graduation, among other topics. Her insights spoke not only to her role at CC, but also her understanding of place, space, and identity inside and outside the college. Trujillo’s office is located on the second floor of Worner in the Wellness Resource Center. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Abby Williams: So, you just graduated this spring — going back to the beginning, what initially drew you to CC?
Ysabel Trujillo: That’s a good question. I got it a lot as an undergrad, and I feel like my answer every time has been financial aid, just being really honest. But, with a bit of perspective, now I think that one thing that really drew me in was the Block Plan and how the Block Plan was marketed to me, especially considering that in high school I really struggled with having all different classes and managing my energy. Time management was really tough for me. So, I thought if in college I could just do one thing at a time, that would solve a lot of the struggles I was facing. That wasn’t the case. The Block Plan is very different in practice than on paper, but I think that the spirit of the Block Plan is what drew me in, that creativity. I value creativity.
AW: What was one of your proudest accomplishments from your time as a student at CC?
YT: I’m proud of a lot of things I did when I was a student. I’m proud of the leadership roles I chose to take on and the ways that those roles allowed me to serve groups of people on campus, and in the community, who matter a lot to me — who feel my pain and make me feel seen and validated. More specifically, being president of the Black Student Union and Black Women at CC was a really great opportunity to use resources that I was given and tasked with, distributing them as I saw fit, and just having that control and being able to exercise my creativity in programming and addressing needs. Even when it was tough, it was just a space to grow in — grow into community, grow into myself as a leader, as a woman, a black woman, an Afro-Chicana … It was just a lot of time for growth, and that inherently means it was a challenging time too. So, I think cultivating that sense of resilience is one of my proudest accomplishments. It’s carrying me through, and I’m proud of that.
AW: What drew you to this position as Paraprofessional for the Wellness Resource Center?
YT: Well, I really needed a job. I have bills to pay, a lot of bills, and I’m supporting myself financially post grad so making money was pretty important, and I’m not going to sugarcoat that. I’m not trying to be funny or cheeky — I had financial needs and this job meets them, thankfully, and I’m very grateful for that. But that part aside, the work of the Wellness Resource Center — health promotion, violence prevention, education and awareness raising — those are things that are really important to me as well. I couldn’t really anticipate how I would fit in in the office, or how I would interact with the dynamic of the office broadly speaking, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised and I just couldn’t be happier with where I work. I love my job. I love serving the folks I serve, and supporting the goals of my office doesn’t feel that different than doing the things that are important to me, which I think is a really special thing to be able to say in my first job out of college. Also, the fact that I am, as far as I know, the first person of color to work in my office is not lost on me either. I don’t feel any kind of pressure to do or say anything that’s not in line with what’s important to me or what I’m about, I’m just saying that being the first is special and I’m aware of that.
AW: Is there something in particular you want to accomplish during your year as Paraprofessional with the Wellness Resource Center? Or during your year here in general?
YT: I’m super duper passionate about the Glass House. I love the Glass House; I love everything about the Glass House, everything it stands for. I actually recently, this weekend, went to a conference at Harvard called “Black in Design.” It’s hosted by the Harvard Graduate School of Design African American Student Union and they basically created this space to discuss specifically Afro-Futurism — this year’s theme — but it was a space for black architects, city planners, designers broadly defined, artists, creative content marketer, all that. For all those folks to come together, I just felt so seen and validated in a way I don’t hear about on campus every day. It was even more jarring because coming back from the conference, the key witness was murdered in the Jean murder case. He was shot in the mouth by the Dallas police department – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Leaving this very insular, futurist space of the Black in Design conference and being confronted with these very real realities of violence and harm was really jarring. So, going back to what I see myself accomplishing, I’m really becoming more aware of what it means to live in this space where I’m being intellectually challenged and stimulated in all these great and amazing ways, but I live with the perpetual threat of police violence, of interpersonal violence, identity based violence. What does that do to a person? Not even what does that do to a person, because there are folks asking those questions and that’s not me. I’m interested in what that person needs in order to feel, in order to increase their capacity to be resilient and be their full authentic self in the face of that — of that tension, in that interstitial space. I think one of those ways is home-making, right? Where do we go home, who are we when we’re at home, that’s always been a really important question to me. I actually just came from my house. I go home for lunch a lot because it makes me feel safe and I love it. So yeah, I’m interested in how I can support and facilitate the well being of students in the Glass House.
AW: What’s been the most difficult part about transitioning from the Block Plan to a 9-to-5 job?
YT: Transition time is so funny, it doesn’t end after the summer you graduate. I think I had some pretty interesting but wrong expectations about the time boundaries of the transition. Because that’s the thing about the Block Plan for me: it perverts your sense of time — and the passage of time, and what one person can actually do — what people can actually do, in a given time span. So, with that in mind, I’ve definitely had to confront my feelings about time and productivity and output, combined with feelings of imposter syndrome and maybe just general lack of experience with even a 9-to-5 kind of position — that’s nothing I knew about until now. But with that being said, what’s really gotten me through is the reminder that I don’t have to solve the problems I have or answer the questions I have on my own. Leaning on my supervisor, Heather, my friends, my co-workers, Twitter, they all really get me though.
AW: How does life in Colorado Springs differ as a graduate?
YT: Honestly — it differs for sure because I’m a different person, but the things I’m up to, the spots you’ll catch me at on the weekend, aren’t that different from what I was doing as a student because it was important to me to get to know the place in which I live. I honestly never identified with that whole “CC bubble” thing. That wasn’t part of my story here. I think that because it wasn’t, I was able to see a life for myself here in a way that maybe some of my peers weren’t. During my undergrad, I had a life out of CC and so therefore, when I graduated, I was able to turn the life that I kind of already had into a way more robust life that I now love.
AW: How do you personally enact self-care?
YT: I limit my interactions. I’m very forceful about my boundaries. I don’t really do things that I don’t want to do. I don’t really let other people’s perceptions of me change how I feel about myself. That’s really broad, those are all really broad things, but honestly, being a black woman at Colorado College, there are just so many experiences that invalidate all those things I just listed, on a micro to macro scale. So, part of my self care post grad, and even as I transitioned out of CC, was just addressing those things, addressing those narratives about who I am, what I’m capable of, addressing those things head on and just being like, actually, that’s not true. Actually, you should reject that. Actually, that’s a lie — that’s something someone is telling you in order to have power over you. So, you know, Auntie Maxine Waters said it’s been about reclaiming my time, reclaiming what’s been implicitly and explicitly told to me about what I’m worthy of. That looks like a lot of different things, but overall those are my goals and objectives when it comes to self care.
AW: Are there new hobbies or interests you’ve picked up since graduating?
YT: I don’t think so, honestly. I’ve returned to reading, reading for pleasure, dancing — I make time to dance as often as I can — talking to my friends on the phone … Honestly, no. Nothing, new. I’m listing all these things and nothing’s new, they’re just things I have time for now that I’m not being subdued by the Block Plan.
AW: Who is your hero, if you have one, or who is someone you look up to?
YT: The first person who popped in my head was Megan Thee Stallion. She is a female rapper, popping in every way. But I think more broadly, I am really drawn to black women who are unapologetic in who they are and what they’re into and what they’re about, who are joyful and funny. So, I’m thinking about really any black woman on campus, all black women on Colorado College’s campus. Those are my heroes. That’s kind of sappy, but I’m of the belief that if they don’t uplift each other, other people won’t.
AW: What general advice do you have for students at CC, academically and/or socially?
YT: Don’t be racist. If you’re rich, give your money away. Trust black women.