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Shining Bright in Gymnastics and Beyond

Posted Date: 06/27/2024

Shining Bright in Gymnastics and Beyond

This year has been a whirlwind of achievements for Jenna Mendez, a recent graduate of Raymondville Early College High School and a formidable Level 9 gymnast. Her journey is a testament to dedication, resilience, and a passion for both academics and athletics.

Jenna's crowning moment came this spring at the prestigious Houston National Invitational. Competing against some of the nation's top young gymnasts, she earned silver medals in the Vault and Beam, a bronze on the Bars, and secured an impressive 3rd place finish All Around. Her performance was nothing short of spectacular.

But Jenna's story doesn't end on the competition floor. For the past three weeks, she has been sharing her love for gymnastics as an instructor at the Raymondville ISD Summer Sports Camp. This incredible program, offered free of charge to all Willacy County students, is a shining example of Raymondville ISD's commitment to fostering young talent and providing enriching opportunities for its community. The district's dedication to creating such impactful programs is evident in the success and happiness of its students. Jenna works with students in grades 1-5, guiding them through the basics of the sport and helping them build confidence in their abilities.

Reflecting on her future, Jenna is excited about the next chapter of her life. "I am going to Texas A&M University in Kingsville (TAMUK) and majoring in Animal Science. I want to be a Vet Tech," she shared enthusiastically.

Jenna’s journey in gymnastics began when she was seven, a relatively late start compared to some of her peers who began as early as 18 months old. Despite this, she advanced to Level 9, a highly challenging level where she competed against other top gymnasts in her age group. Her perseverance and dedication have clearly paid off.

Teaching gymnastics, however, has presented its own set of challenges. "It’s difficult," Jenna admitted. "They’re still learning to use their bodies and sometimes they don’t know their right from their left. Sometimes it was frustrating in the beginning… you have to be really patient." This summer marked her first time teaching beginners, a stark contrast to her previous experience assisting advanced students at her competition gym.

As the weeks progressed, Jenna saw remarkable improvement in her young students. "They’ve gotten better. Some learned their forward roll, bridge, cartwheel, or handstand. They’re better at right and left, they’re learning how to use their body," she said with a proud smile. Jenna noted that the kids have also gained confidence. "They learned how to push through their fears. Some of them were scared because this was new to them, but now they’re excited. Learning to do a forward roll is hard… basically, you’re falling down… that’s scary. But they learned that even if something is hard and scary, they can still do it."

Jenna's journey from a late start in gymnastics to becoming a top competitor and dedicated instructor is truly inspiring. As she heads off to TAMUK to pursue her dream of becoming a Vet Tech, there's no doubt that she will continue to excel and make a positive impact on everyone around her. Jenna Mendez is a shining example of how passion and perseverance can lead to greatness both in and out of the gym. Thanks to programs like the Raymondville ISD Summer Sports Camp, many more young athletes in Willacy County will have the opportunity to discover their potential and achieve their dreams.