UHV student’s faith leads to educational path, campus involvement

Sophomore Shelbie Ayala attributes her strong Christian faith to setting her on a path to teach one day at a private Christian school and providing her with the conviction to do good work at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Shelbie Ayala

One example came during UHV’s Alternative Spring Break in March. Alternative Spring Break is an opportunity for students to go volunteer for a week during their spring break. Ayala, 20, went with a group of nine students to Biloxi, Miss., to various sites to help clean up the community.

“We went to one place two different times to clean up the outside location to make a trail, trim trees and pick up trash,” she said.

During the trip, she had the opportunity to meet new people from various backgrounds. Ayala said she was used to doing volunteer work with members from her church. The Alternative Spring Break trip was a good way for her to get acquainted with new people.

“Whenever you do these types of things, it really does bring the group closer together,” she said. “We got to know each other, and we continued on our friendships even after the trip. I didn’t meet many of the students until the day we left Victoria.”

At home in Beeville, she attends Kingsway Church, and she goes to Parkway Baptist Church when she is in Victoria for school.

Ayala started her own student ministry organization called Kappa Chi at UHV. She also has been involved with the UHV Student Government Association.

Ayala said UHV is a great place to take part in many activities. She also is getting to know other people who are involved on campus. Getting to know the people at UHV creates a homey feeling, she said.

“I like that there is a variety of opportunities to serve at UHV,” she said. “Back home, I served a lot with my church. We would do several things to help others throughout the year. When I came to UHV, that was something that I would look forward to. It’s important to get involved and do whatever is offered, especially if it’s free.”

It wasn’t until her senior year of high school that one of her friends mentioned UHV to her. The same friend asked if she wanted to see the campus with her, so she did. The visit clinched it. She decided UHV was where she wanted to be.

“I thought UHV would be a good place for me because it’s close to home, and it’s not too big or small,” she said.

Ayala is majoring in education. After UHV, she wants to work at a private Christian school. She also wants to be more involved with the youth group at her church.

During her spare time, she loves watching YouTube and Netflix, and spending time with family and friends, Ayala said.

“Most of the time at home, I’m here with my mom, but if I’m at school, I like to spend time with friends. We like to go out to eat together or just talk.”

There are several reasons why she loves being a student at UHV. Among them is that the university is making sure students have fun on campus and are safe.

“Here you get to know basically the whole school,” Ayala said. “I like that the faculty and staff are friendly. The staff has been so good to me. The students who want to be involved are involved in any way they can be, and getting to know them is something that I have really enjoyed. UHV wants to know what the students want to do. The university lets them make their own choices.”

I am a Jaguar is an online feature highlighting students from the University of Houston-Victoria. To nominate a student, contact Ashley Strevel, UHV communications manager, or call 361-570-4296.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Lisa Shapiro, Special to UHV