Life during COVID-19, Illinois student body president Alexis Perezchica

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Photo Courtesy of Alexis PerezchicaPhoto Courtesy of Alexis Perezchica

Student Body President Alexis Perezchica poses for a professional headshot outside of the Illini Union. The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the new president’s goals.

By Elizabeth Sayasane, Features Editor

Junior in LAS, Alexis Perezchica’s excitement over winning the election for 2020-2021 Illinois student body president was quickly chased by the news about COVID-19 spreading throughout the country. Other schools were closing down and students of Illinois soon got the news that they would be returning home for the rest of the semester.

Traditionally, the transition to a new president and assembly takes place at a gala. They honor those who served the previous term and welcome the new school leaders, however, this year, the transition took place over Zoom.

“It was a hard transition mentally,” Perezchica said. “We had worked very hard to get where we are and what we were expecting didn’t happen.”

All the initial meetings with administrators such as the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs took place virtually.  This made it difficult for Perezchica to form real connections with these people. She said meeting people in person and actually seeing their energy and behavior affects what kind of relationship she has with them.

Nonetheless, as students moved back on campus in the fall, Perezchica threw herself fully into her position as student body president. She had two priorities moving back: First, keeping students safe, and second, advocating for the issues she promised to work on during her campaign.

“We’re working on our goals, while also COVID issues are on top of that, so we really had to take a step back and reprioritize things,” she said.

COVID-19 has further complicated the issues they were already hoping to address. For example, Perezchica points to mental health services. While running, Perezchica voiced her support for bolstering mental health resources for students on campus.

Since COVID-19 disrupted everyone’s lives, students are seeking out these resources but facing accessibility issues. Perezchica said students find the available time slots difficult to accommodate, not to mention the challenges faced by students living out of state since the Counseling Center can only counsel in Illinois. The challenge now is not just improving these resources, but also improving it for students who do not have the same access.

In addition to the challenges of her presidency, Perezchica has to face all of the challenges every other student is facing right now with her classes.

“I would say online learning is difficult because you’re at your computer all day, and sometimes teachers are giving us more work now,” she said. “They’re giving us more work because we’re at home and it seems like we’re less busy, but in reality, we’re busier now with a lot of the extra work.”

Like everyone else, Perezchica misses hanging out with her friends, just to get dinner or grab a coffee together. She said she tries to find a balance between handling her school responsibilities while also making an effort to somehow safely connect with friends.

As student body president, she is working hard to help other students in the same position.

“I’m just trying my best to find how COVID is affecting students and see what I can do to help,” she said. “Who do I have to talk to, who do I have to collaborate with, what kind of initiatives have to be done.”

Looking forward, Perezchica said one of her main focuses is trying to stay on campus until Nov. 20. She said if this campus cannot do it, no other school can. Even with the frequent testing and the Safer Illinois app,  though, she said a lot of the effort will be left up to the students.

Perezchica urges students to follow the CDC health guidelines and the rules put into place by the CUPHD.

“I’m really proud of our community because most students are doing what they’re supposed to,” she said. “It’s just the couple of students who don’t care about their community that are really putting everybody else in danger.”

Even with the stressful position she is in, Perezchica said she is trying to maintain a positive outlook. She clarified, though, that this does not mean she is ignoring the circumstances and telling people to ‘just be happy.’ She said while she understands the situation, she still wants to take advantage of what she has.

“We really have to learn from the situation we’re in right now, we have to get something good out of it,” Perezchica said.

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