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Young student athletes learn to grow

Young student athletes learn to grow

By Marlene Gonzalez
Bridge contributing writer

Published Friday, Sept. 10, 2021

Becoming an adult is part of life for everyone, but each person switches to adulthood differently. Some are surrounded by family and others learn on their own.

“I moved out at 18 years old and was homesick for a while,” Texas A&M International University freshman basketball forward Ally Winnen said. “I missed my family, my twin sister and my pets back home.”

Originally from Westlake, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, Winnen always knew basketball would give her the opportunity to study away from home after graduating high school. In 2020, she was named Second Team All-State and All-District, as well as 2020 Regional Player of the Year and Lorain County Ms. Basketball in 2020.

She averaged 18 points and 13 rebounds her senior year after lettering for four years. That year, she helped lead her team to the Final Four.

She saw moving away as a chance to become her own person. Before coming to TAMIU in 2021, she attended Saginaw Valley State University in University Center, Michigan.

Her family was shocked and nervous when she first expressed her desire to move away, but supported her every step of the way.

“Leaving my sister was probably the hardest thing [about] coming to Texas [after] having her by my side for so long, it was weird to start being my own individual,” Winnen said.

She believes having moved away early in her adulthood allowed her to learn more about herself, establish her own identity and develop a bigger voice. Being alone around new people challenged her personality and had a strong effect in navigating her into the person she wanted to become.

However, not all students have the same experience moving away from home. For some, it is easier to leave home than for others.

“My family did not approve because they thought moving 10 hours away from home was not a good decision,” TAMIU freshman volleyball right-side hitter Danielle Armendariz said. “Being an only child, my mother and I have a very tight bond and my family didn’t think either of us would be able to handle it if I moved away.”

Armendariz acknowledged a lack of confidence and a hesitation to become independent before she left home.

In high school, she knew she wanted to move away to start somewhere new. Originally from El Paso, Texas, she had many options to study out of state. After plenty of thought and discussion with her family, they eventually decided it would be best for her to remain in state but study away from home.

“I believe it was necessary for me to move away. I love my family, but I know there is more out there for me and I just had to get out of my comfort zone and leave my hometown,” Armendariz said.

Many students agreed as they have gotten older, they can recognize it is because of their decision to move out when they did, that they are able to adapt more easily to situations and better learn how to navigate the world on their own.

“Before I left home, I was a very shy person and I found myself simply trying to follow in my sister’s footsteps,” TAMIU Spring 2021 senior softball pitcher Melanie Lint said. “Now I am more outgoing and confident in making my own decisions.”

One of her biggest concerns about leaving home at 18, included being alone and unsure of how to handle challenges. Now at 22, she feels secure with her independence and the support she surrounded herself with.

“Those around you become your new family, so you look out for them just as they look out for you, and you help each other out with little things you would normally rely on family for,” Lint said.

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