Yenny Perez was honored this week for passing the test to become a citizen of the United States.
March 14, 2019 – Last Friday, Yenny Perez accomplished something important in her life – she passed the test to become a citizen of the United States of America.
Yenny works in the cafeteria of the Sequatchie County High School (SCHS), and on Monday the whole school turned out to honor her and let her know how proud they are of her.
“It was a wonderful surprise!” Mrs. Perez said Tuesday. “I've never had nothing happen to me like that, in front of so many people. It was great.”
SCHS Principal Tommy Layne organized the assembly, and to roaring applause, he told Yenny they were all very proud of her accomplishment. Then students representing several different groups in the school presented gifts, starting with a homemade apple pie and including a “USA” hat with her name stitched on it, a baseball, and a T-shirt that said, Proud To Be An American.
On Tuesday, Yenny came out of the high school kitchen and took off her apron, revealing that the very next day she was wearing that shirt.
“On Friday, March 8, I passed the test,” she said. “I have been approved for my citizenship.”
The actual swearing-in ceremony is all that remains, and that should take place within the next few months.
Yenny is happy to be a full citizen now, because her husband Johnathan Perez is American and they have a 7-year-old son. She said she wants to feel free to be with her family and looks forward to being able to travel as she pleases – to perhaps return to Honduras, to see the people she considers her extended family.
For, you see, she has a story to tell. Yenny Yiomara Aquino Guevara came a long way to be where she is today.
“I grew up in a very unstable family,” she said. “My mom left dad when I was 4 years old and took us with her.”
Fleeing abuse, the mother and her four children hid out for several years, but eventually her husband found them. After just two weeks, his wife left again, leaving the three oldest children with their abusive father.
For the next six years, Yenny stayed, even when her older sister committed suicide at the age of 13. Finally, Yenny made the decision to run away, living hand-to-mouth and suffering emotional trauma from what she had experienced.
Finally, she ended up at a Christian orphanage, where she at last felt safe. The poverty she had known all her life, the abuse of her father, and the abandonment by her mother, were now behind her.
“We were homeless,” she said. “No food, no clothes to wear. Coming to the orphanage was like Heaven to me.”
That orphanage is where Yenny lived for the next several years. And that is where she met her husband, Johnathan.
“He came as a missionary,” she said. “We dated 1 ½ years. When I was 24, we were married, there in the orphanage.”
The young couple stayed on, ministering at the orphanage for the next three years, but after their son was born they decided to return to the United States.
“We came for a visit in 2011,” Yenny said, “and in 2013 we moved here.” The next year they moved to Dunlap.
Tammy Young, who manages the Cowboy Church in Bledsoe County, took in the young couple.
“She supported us when we needed it the most,” Yenny explained. “We lived with her for three years.”
And perhaps more important than providing them with a place to live and a job at the ranch, Young helped Yenny find a counselor to help her work through the trauma of the past.
Today, Johnathan Perez serves as youth minister at Ewtonville Baptist Church, where Yenny also helps with the younger children, and Yenny is glad they made the move to Dunlap.
“The people are so nice,” she said. “They are very friendly. I feel loved at the church I am in, and the people in general . . . I've never met somebody that's not nice.”
As far as the past is concerned, Yenny Perez considers the people at the Christian orphanage her family and hopes to go visit them once she is sworn in as an American citizen and is free to travel.
“I forgive my dad and my mom,” she says. “They are forgiven. God is good. He took me out of darkness. He took me out of jail, really.”
Video of the assembly at SCHS recognizing Yenny Perez' accomplishment. Video courtesy of Melissa Shelton.