The saying goes that when there’s no pain, there’s no gain. For University of Houston-Victoria sophomore Kara Waukau, that gain was direction toward a career.
Inspiration struck the aspiring physical therapist her senior year of high school, when a sports injury led her to the operating room for shoulder surgery.
“It was really hard - a daily struggle,” she said, explaining the days that followed not only meant some pain, but also a break from athletics. “But the people I worked with really helped.”
Today, the psychology major is on the track toward physical therapy school, where she hopes to make a difference for people like herself.
“Of course, you can’t choose who you work with,” she said. “But I want to be geared toward athletes. I want to help them recover and still play.”
Waukau was born and raised in the Houston suburb of Missouri City and graduated from Elkins High School in 2010. She moved on to UHV after being recruited to the Jaguars softball team.
An athlete since age 7, the outfielder said the school and team are a good fit.
“I was actually recruited with two of my best friends, so it’s been fun,” she said, noting that she and her teammates mesh both on the field and off. “And it’s a smaller school. I like it.”
In her time away from sports and studies, the 19-year-old also volunteers with HOSTS, a mentoring program where she works with elementary school children in Victoria.
“A lot of times you’ll feel stressed and worry you don’t have the time, but when you get there, you’re just so glad to be there,” she said. “The kids are all so cute, and we have fun. It’s rewarding.”
Waukau admitted it isn’t always easy finding that happy balance between classes, a social life and 10 to 15 hours of softball practice each week, but she manages. The knowledge that she and her teammates can’t play softball if they don’t make good grades helps, she added with a laugh.
She advised other students to keep an eye on the prize during their college years.
“Just do what you have to do,” she said. “Sometimes it isn’t what you want to do, and sometimes it will be hard. But you’ve got to look at the future and see that it’s worth it.”
The UHV Outstanding Student is an online feature highlighting the exceptional students who attend the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, contact Paula Cobler, UHV interim director of marketing and communications, or call 361-570-4350.