By Belen Edwards
Helping people has always motivated third-year Tamara Pérez Cantalapiedra. “Ever since I was little I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people,” she said.
Pérez used to want to be a doctor. “I had this misconception that the only way to help people was by curing them,” she said. However, during high school she became more interested in the humanities and philosophy. During a summer program in philosophy, she asked one of her professors, “what’s the best way to help people?”
“I remember he said, ‘medicine is a great way to help people, but you’ll really make change through the law.’ And I knew he was onto something,” Pérez said.
Helping people through law shapes Pérez’s studies today at the University. She majors in philosophy and allied fields, with her allied field being political science. She is also a human rights minor, and participated in the human rights study abroad program in Vienna during the spring of her second year.
“I tried to focus my studies around questions like, ‘what does it mean to be a good person? What’s the best, most effective way to help others? Do we even have the free will to do that?’” she said.
Pérez’s focus on making change and helping others extends beyond the classroom. During her first year, she interned at a non-profit for immigrants. “I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” she said.
On-campus, Pérez is a Resident Assistant, working to build community and enrich the experiences of residents in Behar House in Campus North. She is also a member of the Student Advisory Council for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.
“We meet about every other week and talk about how to help multicultural groups on campus,” said Pérez. “We definitely want to advocate their concerns and support how they engage with the community.”
Pérez has found another platform to do good in teaching Zumba classes with FitChicago. Not only does Pérez provide a fun, uplifting workout to members of the University community, she has also used Zumba fundraisers to contribute to recovery efforts in her native Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria in 2017 and again in February 2020.
Pérez is continuing to teach Zumba remotely through Zoom during Spring Quarter. “I still wanted to teach,” she said, “and I know people were still interested. If I and the other instructors could help people stay fit and give them something to look forward to, then I was definitely willing to try this new way of teaching.”
To find out more about FitChicago’s remote classes, visit their Facebook page.