Stories by

Aileen Perilla

By Victoria Leandra Hernández

Aileen Perilla is an assistant photo editor and photographer at The Penny Hoarder, a personal-finance website based in Florida. She graduated in December from the University of Central Florida with a degree in journalism and a minor in digital media.

Raised by a single Colombian mother, she saw the financial hardship her mother faced. Her family had largely worked in health care and had pushed for her to find a career in the field that offered good money and stability. She initially graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Health Science, intending to become a physical therapist.

Aileen got a job at a rehabilitation center while applying to graduate schools when she quickly realized the health path was not for her. She was lacking passion in her day-to-day, so she decided to make a change. Aileen went back to college to pursue a career in what she found to be her calling: visual storytelling.

Having a longtime love for photography and being able to capture a moment in time, she found the correct career path for her: photojournalism. She says she wants to go out and tell the stories of those who are often ignored.

As a video/photo intern with The Orlando Sentinel, she learned the ins and outs of working at a newspaper. Now at The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, she hopes to learn from the best in the country. She said she wanted to continue covering stories that otherwise wouldn’t be covered, with a focus on minorities and contributing to major publications like The Times.

Aileen draws inspiration from several women pioneers in the photojournalism industry who faced hardship and proved themselves, like Lynsey Addario, an award-winning conflict photographer, and from Women Photograph, an organization that seeks to “elevate the voices” of women in visual journalism. “There’s still a lot more work to be done, and I really appreciate the work being done by Women Photograph on holding newsrooms accountable and showing the need to diversify,” Aileen said.

“Many have told me how tough the journalism business is,” Aileen said. “But I remember to not lose the motivation and to advocate for myself and the stories that need to be told.”

The Cruz-González family fled to New York after Hurricane Maria ravaged their homeland. Six months later, they are still in temporary housing and apprehensive about what the future holds.