Achieving My Impossible
Check back each day this week as we share the stories of some of our incredible students.
When senior Wendy Aguilar was nine years old and living in New York with her family, she and her mother were hit by a car. Her legs were badly injured in the accident, and for the next two years as Wendy recovered, even walking was a painful challenge.
Six years ago, Wendy and her family moved to Indiana and began what Wendy calls a ‘rollercoaster of a journey.’
“The first two schools I went to, I genuinely didn’t like them at all,” Wendy said. “But then Providence was the biggest upgrade. I could feel myself getting those brain cells back. At my other schools, there would be fights every day. Students would argue with the teachers, so we didn’t have time to learn anything, and the teachers just gave up on us, so they wouldn’t teach us anything. Everyone would just be on their phones...and it was just like, ‘why am I even going to school?’”
Wendy said that from her first week of Corporate Work Study Training Camp at PCR, she could tell that her high school experience was going to be different. All new students at Providence Cristo Rey start their high school career by spending a week-and-a-half learning basic professional skills during the training camp to prepare them to go to their corporate jobs on their first day of work.
Wendy also appreciated the new challenges that the classes at PCR posed.
“I like how challenging the classes are, because it’s like, now I can use my brain. I don’t question why I have to come to school – even if I sometimes question if I can make it!” she said laughing.
Wendy spent her first three years at PCR focusing on her studies and helping out at home with her younger siblings.
But by the time she became a senior, Wendy was feeling the urge to get involved with something outside of the classroom. One day during her gym class, Assistant Athletic Director, Mrs. Jansen, spent a portion of the class telling the students about the benefits of playing sports. The conversation got Wendy thinking about the possibility of joining a sport herself.
“I had never done any sports before,” Wendy said. “So, I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and join cross country.”
Despite the fact that she was the only girl – and one of only three runners on the team – Wendy decided to go for it and dove into the new challenge headfirst.
“On the first day of practice, I thought, ‘I’m not going to make it, there is no way!’” Wendy recalled. “I was gasping for air.”
Since her childhood accident, Wendy had never pushed herself even to walk long distances, so running was not something her body was used to. But despite the fatigue and pain in her legs, Wendy stuck with it.
“I really wanted to finish it,” she said. “There were so many times I wanted to skip practice. But I really wanted to see myself improve. I told myself, ‘Wendy, you started this, you might as well finish it.’ I don’t like leaving things undone.”
Wendy began giving herself little incentives to improve, such as allowing herself to buy a new item of clothing if she did better one meet to the next. She also practiced the techniques and tips given to her by Coach Melanie Gilbert, PCR’s Academic Counselor, Sister Kathleen, the school’s Outreach Coordinator (and one of the cross country team’s biggest cheerleaders), and the school’s Marketing Director, Ms. Allison, who also joined the team on long run days.
“When I was running, I would give thanks,” Wendy said, recalling one of the mental exercises she and Ms. Allison would practice on their runs together. “’I’m thankful that my legs work, that I’ve been able to run this much for this long.’”
“And Sister Kathleen also inspired me to keep going. She would say, ‘let’s pray because this pain will go away. I know it’s painful, but there are others who are going through worse.’ And if they can do it, I can do it, you know?”
But perhaps Wendy’s biggest inspiration came from her coach.
“I love her – I’m so happy that she is the coach,” Wendy said. “She’s just an amazing person and a great coach. If it hadn’t been for her, I would have quit cross country like the first day. I really liked that she would run with us so she could see my progress. She would adjust our workouts to make sure that we didn’t fall behind. I felt so comfortable with her, like I could tell her anything!”
During her early races, Wendy struggled to finish the course. However, as the weeks went by, Wendy’s determination and conditioning steadily improved. Before the season began, Wendy had run the mile in gym class at a 14 minute/mile pace. The week after her last meet, only a month-and-a-half after her first attempt, the class was asked to run the mile again.
Health teacher, Mrs. Jansen, loves telling the story of what proceeded to occur this time around:
"Wendy was nervous the day we ran our second mile of the semester," she said, setting the scene. "Since our first time running as a class, the weather had dropped about 40 degrees and I knew she had been training. I was super excited to see her improvement; I just knew she was going to do incredible."
"One of our male students was helping me keep track of laps for students and monitoring times, and as Wendy rounded the halfway mark, this student looked at his friend who was huffing and puffing behind Wendy and said, 'Wendy is kicking your behind!' She laughed and it was an enjoyable moment for me as a teacher to see her recognize her success publicly in front of her peers."
Mrs. Jansen and her student helper watched Wendy finish the mile faster than any of her classmates, cutting nearly 7 minutes off of her original time.
"She glistened with sweat and pride as she crossed the finish line, and I was almost in tears," Mrs. Jansen said proudly. "As a female athlete, I feel empowered when I see women work hard and rise above in competition, and that's what Wendy did in the park that day."
With the season over, Wendy is looking forward to the rest of her senior year. Her hope is to become the first person in her family to go to college and to study architecture or engineering.
“My inspiration [for wanting to study architecture] is my grandma because she lived in Mexico, and because of how bad the place is, her house would get destroyed a lot. I want to find a way to make sure that earthquakes and floods don’t destroy houses that easily,” Wendy explained.
Is she planning to continue running even now that cross country is over?
“Yeah. I can already feel my body weakening and I don’t like it!” Wendy said, laughing. “I’ve got to keep running. I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to run lately, and my knees have been hating me for that. I’d like to keep running here if they start a running club, and I’m even thinking about joining a cross country club in college.”
Wendy is proud of what she was able to accomplish this season.
“It makes me actually believe that anything is possible if you put effort into it.”
Want to support students like Wendy? Your gift in any amount helps to support critical programs and services and ensures that all students are able to afford a Providence Cristo Rey education. Make your gift today!