Puerto Rican Native Overcomes Adversity

By Jennifer Hill

Laughing with a bunch of her girlfriends after a match at the tennis courts, Mirelva Colon seems to be an average 21 year old Marist student. As she socializes, most people would not realize the amount of time that she has spent on those tennis courts and the dedication she has put into the sport during her four years at Marist. Being born and raised in Puerto Rico, tennis was Colon’s way of reaching America. However, many of Colon’s team members are unaware that she almost did not attend Marist when choosing a college almost four years ago.

“My top choice for a school was the University of Massachusetts,” Colon said. “I had my heart set on it.”

However, Colon’s dream ended on a typical Friday afternoon. At 5 p.m. that Friday the coach from UMass was coming to scout her. At 3 p.m. on the way to watch a tennis match at her high school, Colon was in the back seat of a car which was hit by a truck and spun to the opposite side of the road.

The Marist women's tennis team. Image courtesy of www.goredfoxes.com.

The Marist women's tennis team. Image courtesy of http://www.goredfoxes.com.

“I barely have any recollection of what happened,” Colon said. “All I remember is that I flew forward and when the car stopped moving I looked up at my friend and she screamed and started crying because there was blood all over my face. I looked down and my white skirt had turned completely red.”

The next thing Colon remembers is waking up in the hospital and having to get stitches in her head. Barely able to move, she could not play for the scout from UMass and he instead chose a different girl to receive the scholarship that was intended for Colon.

Colon was forced to establish another plan for school and decided to attend Marist, having never visited and previously only visiting New York once.

Mirelva Colon plays with intense concentration during one of her matches. Image courtesy of www.goredfoxes.com.

Mirelva Colon plays with intense concentration during one of her matches. Image courtesy of http://www.goredfoxes.com.

“It was really difficult to adjust to New York from living in Puerto Rico, where it is more or less 70 degrees all the time. I had never even heard the word ‘sweatshirt’ before,” Colon said. “I hated Marist my freshman year and was planning on transferring.”

Colon’s difficulties her freshman year did not only include the weather. Although she had taken a few English classes in high school she could not speak the language which made it very difficult to communicate.

“Reading and writing in English was not very difficult,” Colon said. “But, the first class I was put into was Public Presentation and barely anyone in my class could understand me. I learned to hate standing up in front of people. I had thought I wanted to be a Journalism major but because of my difficulty with English I had to change it.”

Two of Colon’s friends Jeannie Lukin and Natalie Fouché went to visit her in Puerto Rico last summer and witnessed the differences between Colon’s home and America.

“It’s extremely unusual because her house is pretty much in the mountains,” Lukin said. “Her parents did not know English and we communicated to them mostly through hand gestures.”

Fouché agreed with the differences. “Because she lives in the mountains, she is about a 30 minute drive from everything. It isn’t like here where everything is at your fingertips.”

Although Colon has experienced a great deal of hardships, she admits that she is ultimately very pleased with her decision.

“I love Marist and being here gives me the chance to be independent,” Colon said. “Eventually, I may return to Puerto Rico to raise a family but I don’t plan on it in the near future.”

Colon’s dedication to tennis has taken her all over the world including South America and many different places in the United States. She is now the co-captain of the Marist team.

“She is a very consistent player,” said Roge Nesbitt, head coach of the women’s tennis team at Marist. “She is reliable and more importantly, always someone the team can count on.”

Many of Colon’s teammates are amazed at what she has done already. In the future, Colon plans to attend graduate school. She aims to enter into mental health counseling and work with athletes.

“She has accomplished so much already in her life,” Lukin said. “I’m so happy she ended up at Marist because she is a great captain and even better friend.”

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