KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Hispanic community makes up roughly 6% of the overall population in Knoxville. A small portion of that calls the University of Tennessee home and an even smaller portion participates in athletics for the University.
UT Athletics fields 20 varsity teams from football to swimming and diving. Of those teams, a small portion is made up of Hispanic student-athletes like Vanessa Gilly, a Caracas, Venezuela native who plays for the Lady Vol Golf team.
She says she’s happy to be on Rocky Top doing something she loves.
“The opportunity to be here, it’s so exciting doing what I love to do,” Gilly said. “At times it’s hard but the people at UT are extremely good with athletics and international people. We all get together and we actually have Latin dinners.”
For Lady Vol Soccer players Jaida Thomas and Nayeli Diaz, it’s a way for them to celebrate a little extra of who they are.
“Being that the Hispanic population only makes up about 6%, being able to be recognized in the community is very special. It’s a month that I’m able to celebrate who I am,” Diaz said.
“Hispanic Heritage really allows me to embrace part of me that maybe not many people see or know about me,” Thomas said. “I think this month is really special.”
On the pitch or on the links, you can expect big things out of these three and for one, she wants her experience to be the same for those come after her.
“I really want my experience to be the same for the people coming into the team,” Gilly said. “There’s a Spanish girl right now that just got in and I’m welcoming her as people did to me my freshman year.”
Even though they are far away from their families, they value the time they get to spend with them even if it’s over the phone.
“It’s definitely a family aspect. Even though I’m pretty far away from them, technology and just knowing that they’re near me in spirit is always helpful,” Diaz said.
If you want to go cheer on the Lady Vols golf and soccer teams this year you can head over the the UT Athletics website to find out when their home games and matches are.