Man of the Year: The New Guard of the Year – Naomi Yitref

Kennedy London, Staff Writer

Naomi Yitref is a Spelman sophomore Sociology and Anthropology major and International Studies minor on the Pre-Law track from Seattle, WA by way of Ethiopia. She is the Sophomore class President, a Gifted Girls of Grace mentor, a United Nations Millennium fellow, and a member of the Director’s board for Spelman Protégés, which is a subsection of the Morehouse Business Association.

According to Yitref, there are no excuses for failure. To have the motivation that she has in order to achieve success does not birth in normal social circumstances. For her, being the child of Ethiopian refugees who escaped the Red Terror of Ethiopia in the late 1970s and with her mother being 16 years old at the time is enough motivation.

According to Yitref, her background and heritage is what “lights [her] fire” and is what brings her current status in America into perspective.

“I want to be a light, I want to embody love, I want to embody what sacrifice and hard work looks like”, Yitref said while reflecting on the rough road that her mother traveled on.”

Yitref wears her story on her sleeve not only to necessarily educate others, but to empower others. Yitref also wants to stress the importance of alignment over the past year of her life.

“I started to become a lot more aware to the values of each moment instead of the values of the future,” she said. “I’m starting to learn the purpose of being in alignment with the present space that I’m in and being in alignment with the pathway that God has predestined for me.”

As someone who considers herself a woman of depth and admittedly a bit of an overthinker, Yitref’s philosophy consists of the idea that everything that people need is already installed inside them. It’s not just about finding ourselves, but more peeling back the layers of what makes us the real person we are. The layers could look like loss, grief, heartbreak, and trauma.

Creating the Re(MIND) series, a mental health week at Spelman, as apart of the Sophomore Class Council, was an extension of that philosophy.

“I think that sometimes important for us to remind ourselves of who we were before the world told us we needed to be,” Yitref said.

    As surreal as it feels being nominated, Yitref also wants to think that her being person of passion and someone who wants to spark a fire in people the reasons why she has received the honor. With being an Olympian, she thinks it represents being a champion, a fighter, and a survivor.

To her, it does not always mean winning. It mostly means placing value on the things that require more of our hearts rather than our muscle.

As far as the legacy she wants to leave being in the AUC, Yitref wants to be remembered as a community builder, a restorative leader, as someone who is goofy and vibrant, as someone who pushed people to see the passion in themselves, and someone who created a space of vulnerability.

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