February 2, 2015 | As they entered the Icardo Center on the campus of California State University, Bakersfield ahead of the Roadrunners home wrestling match, the ooh’s and aah’s were audible. The nearly 75 Los Angeles area youth wrestlers attending BTSLA’s first ever College Trip Experience were in awe of the sight.
A core component of BTSLA’s programs are the opportunities for external experiences like summer camps, competitions and clinics, and now a college campus visit. These experiences take the athletes beyond their daily routines and outside the familiarity of their neighborhoods. For many, this trip was the first time they have stepped foot on a college campus.
“The college trip to Bakersfield made me realize what it would be like if I go to college. It was a great experience.” said BTSLA athlete Nina Romero.
In addition to watching the Roadrunners wrestling match, the students were treated to a special tour of the campus hosted by the CSU Bakersfield (CSUB) outreach team. Throughout the tour, BTSLA athletes asked questions, learned about the history of the University, and heard testimonials from a current student as well as an CSUB alumni.
“This was an eyeopening experience for our athletes. I know our athletes enjoyed the trip and it will impact them beyond wrestling.” said San Pedro program coach Roman Hernandez.
At the completion of the days activities, BTSLA athletes had a special opportunity to hear from former San Fernando HS student and current CSUB 125-pound wrestler Sergio Mendez. Sergio, who participated in BTSLA programs while at San Fernando, spoke to the group about never giving up on their dreams. “Wrestling has taught me to work hard and to never give up. It’s taken me from San Fernando to here at CSUB and I never could have accomplished that without wrestling,” said Mendez.
Following the Roadrunners victory over San Francisco State, CSUB Head Wrestling Coach Mike Mendoza thanked the group for their enthusiastic cheering. “It was great having BTSLA here. We enjoyed the extra cheering and I am glad Sergio got to speak to the group. It is good for him to remember that he has so many young people that are looking up to him.”
There is no question that Sergio Mendez left an impact on the BTSLA athletes; and maybe, just a little, they impacted him too.
Photos by Hector Isaac.