My name is Benette Valdillez and I am proud to say that I am an athlete/ student/ mentor. I started playing handball at the age of 20, for a program called Yes2Kids. From the first day I stepped onto the handball court I fell in love with the game. My initial thought when I was first asked to try out handball was that it would help me reach my weight loss goal; at which point I was willing to try any form of exercise. I was 20lbs down on my journey to lose a very necessary 50 lbs, when I plateaued. Nothing I was doing was working to lose the weight, and then I was introduced to handball, within the first three months of playing, I dropped the last 30 lbs of my goal and have not looked back since. Everything in the context of my new life in handball helped me reach this goal of health. The people in the Yes2Kids program all led such healthy lifestyles, exercised regularly and were all so positive, they led by example and it would have been hard not to follow suit. Seeing how well all of the others played, only pushed me to want to learn the game faster, and I can tell you, it’s the most surreal, indescribable feeling of accomplishment when you finally hit the ball off the back wall in four-wall or get some power behind your hit; once I felt this, I knew competition was next. In my short but growing handball career, I have played in numerous handball tournaments and although I have not walked away from every one of them with a trophy, the few I will mention I am quite proud of; in 2009 I was the champion for the 23 and under girls B division for big ball and small ball at the Junior Handball Tournament, I took 2nd place at the Fireball Classic in the Women’s B division in 2010 and in 2012 I took 2nd place at the USHA 60th annual National Collegiate Tournament Division 2 A. Since starting handball there have been so many other accomplishments that I have achieved, in December 2012 I was the proud recipient of my Associate of Applied Science in Social Work from Pima Community College in Tucson, Az. In August 2013 I will be attending Arizona State University school of Social Work for a BSW. Playing for Yes2Kids with the members of the program and the people mentoring me, I became a person that looking back 5 years ago I would have never become. Receiving the amazing words of wisdom while in the handball program and having people change my life through their presence and kindness encouraged me to take part in the lives of others in a positive way. In the summer of 2011 I put all I have learned and was encouraged to be to good use and began volunteering as a head coach for a soccer team for 3 and 4 year olds, helping to teach them the social skills needed at an early age. I also began volunteering for a local group called Be Free Pima, which helps teach children and teenagers substance abuse prevention. My goal is to make a difference and help guide the lives of children in a positive direction; in essence, “paying it forward”. I know that accomplishments are met because the individual deems them necessary, but I can honestly say that losing the weight I needed to lose, winning the trophies and continuing my education are a lot easier with the help of some pretty amazing people, standing behind the glass cheering me on.