Dreaming of leading her own team
Student of the Week: Xitlaly Hernandez
“All the teachers I've had this semester are so passionate about teaching and making sure that we have a good understanding of everything. I see how they love what they're doing in their careers, and I want to feel the same way.”
South Texas College student Xitlaly Hernandez has carried a love of team sports her entire life and is now pursuing an associate degree in Kinesiology to help her accomplish her dream of one day leading her own team.
Hernandez graduated from South Texas High School for Health Professions in 2017 and was recruited to play soccer at Paris Junior College, where she studied nursing. But, after graduating, she realized the health care profession wasn’t her calling.
“I took time to figure out what I really wanted to do, and realized I've always been involved in sports and felt I would make a good coach,” Hernandez said. “That's what motivated me to return to school to pursue Kinesiology.”
Hernandez, 24, currently attends classes at both the Pecan and Mid-Valley campuses and said she enjoys the dual access to facilities and is inspired by the staff and faculty.
“All the teachers I've had this semester are so passionate about teaching and making sure that we have a good understanding of everything,” Hernandez said. “I see how they love what they're doing in their careers, and I want to feel the same way.”
STC’s Kinesiology department offers a variety of courses in the areas of physical education teaching, fitness, health education and specialized certification courses. Hernandez said she chose to study at STC because she was impressed by the variety of courses the college offers.
“I started looking into what classes I was going to take and was excited about being able to participate in team sports again,” Hernandez said. “I was also really intrigued by the first-aid class, because it’s good to have that under your belt, and the outdoors and recreation class really fascinated me because I don’t have a lot of experience in camping. It opened up so many new things that I didn't know about myself.”
The Weslaco native said her interest in sports began in elementary school and grew once she started competing in middle school.
“I started doing cross-country, volleyball, soccer, basketball, track and swimming,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to learn about every sport. Once I reached high school, the coaches reminded me that as much as I wanted to do every sport, I had to narrow it down, so I focused on cross-country, soccer and track and field.”
When Hernandez decided she didn’t want to participate in cross-country her senior year of high school, she chose to fill her fall semester sport with something new and unexpected.
“I thought, ‘I'm going to try football,’ and that’s how that journey started,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez made school history by becoming the first female kicker for the Weslaco East High School varsity football team.
“The head football coach asked me, ‘Are you sure you want to play,’” Hernandez said. “I said, ‘Yes. I’ve been a starter for my varsity soccer team for two years and I feel like I can contribute to your team. I'm going to work my way to my spot.’ It was scary at first because I did turn a lot of heads, but everyone really welcomed me with open arms.”
Hernandez plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree after graduating from STC and hopes to teach Physical Education at a middle school or high school, or even coach at the collegiate level, one day.
“If you really love sports, outdoor activities and being part of a team, I feel like there's no better major to pursue than Kinesiology,” Hernandez said. “You not only learn a lot about yourself and get to push your body, but you also learn so much from other students. It’s a humbling experience being in the kinesiology field.”
Along with pursuing a career she loves, Hernandez is also at the start of a new life-changing chapter: motherhood.
Hernandez said she is pregnant and scheduling her classes to match her adjustment period as a new mother.
“My final semester next year will include all the intense physical classes,” Hernandez said. “I feel like it’ll be a good challenge and will help me get back in shape after having my baby.”
Hernandez said she knows STC will allow her to balance motherhood with her education and encourages other students to consider how an associate degree program can fit and benefit their career goals.
“The classes are smaller in an associate degree program, so you get to really connect with all your classmates,” Hernandez said. “It's more collaborative and it's a better experience for many students. And, if you’re transferring, it gives you a chance to adjust to bigger classes and more peers. I hope everybody else has an experience like the one I have at STC.”