Aug. 17, 2016
Christal Peterson was an All-American sprinter and conference champion for the UCF track and field team before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences (pre-clinical) in Summer 2015. She also served as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President. This fall, Peterson will start the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at UCF.
Peterson recently returned from a week-long service-learning trip to Panama with the UCF Athletics-based group Knights Without Borders. Since 2013, KWOB has aimed to provide cross-culture experiences in developing a sense of world unity. In addition to this trip, Peterson has also served on KWOB journeys to Costa Rica and Ireland. The group of 30 who traveled to Panama built a multi-purpose sports court with Courts for Kids in the town of Tucuecito in the province of Coclé.
Below is a first-hand account of the experience.
“Knights Without Borders is something I look forward to every summer because it is almost like a reset button on my life. For a whole week I am forced to have no communication to the outside world, and I am okay with that. I think sometimes you need an experience that makes you evaluate your life and your priorities, not taking anything or anyone for granted.
My connection to UCF is even more important now as an alumna than it was as an undergrad. UCF is on the rise, and it’s important to continue to contribute to its legacy. I was not the only post-grad former student-athlete on the trip, and I honestly believe that helped because we are all in the same boat right now; some of us are going straight to grad school while others are taking some time off to figure out if grad school is the right fit for them. So it was kind of cool to connect with them and realize that I was not alone in my feelings of closing an important chapter on my life (sports) and taking on a new one – in my case, being an adult and graduate assistant for the student-athlete welfare and development office.
In terms of the day-to-day work, we did not have a cement mixer, so all of our cement for the court needed to be made by hand, which I thought was absolutely crazy. But after the first batch, I realized that it was something that could be done. Since I’m so used to being a helping hand, I just assumed that I could help mix the cement. That was a big fat NO with every shovel I tried to put into the mix. I slowly realized my place in the system.
Inauguration day for the court was a beautiful thing. Seeing the people of Tucuecito come together as a community to see the finished product was simply amazing. What really stuck out to me the most was that the townspeople all prayed over the court, almost like they were christening it. They prayed that the court stays around for generations to come, and that it also brings the community together as one. Then they prayed for the hands that built the court. It was really an honor.
What I’ve learned on these trips is that you just appreciate the value of time because it is not promised for anybody. It is truly a blessing to be able to connect with people on a deeper level, beyond the basic information.
Our individual journeys are unique, and there are reasons for everything at the end of the day. I learned that my life is no longer my own anymore. It is to serve others, and I will continue to do that. I want to thank UCF for all the opportunities I have been granted. Never in my life did I think I would be traveling the world and helping people while doing it. I am extremely blessed to have participated on my third KWOB trip. The power of sports is such a universal language that can literally inspire and change the world. That’s why every day I live by the quote: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’”
-Christal Peterson ’15