Amaya Perez: a ‘bright, shining’ student-athlete

Apr 04, 2024
Perez teaching a HIIT class

Newman students may know her as the girl who eats oatmeal for every breakfast in the cafeteria, or the curly-haired ball of energy bouncing around campus and the court.

To the basketball team, she is a teammate and friend.

And to her Fit Body Boot Camp classes, she’s Coach Amaya, who helps them shine like stars.

Amaya Perez is a sophomore student-athlete who leads classes at Fit Body Boot Camp in her free time, the latter of which comes sparingly. When Perez isn’t in class or doing homework, she is practicing or training (and on occasion, playing Fortnite).

Amaya Perez flexing at the front desk of Fit Body Boot Camp.
Amaya Perez flexing at the front desk of Fit Body Boot Camp.

Perez studies special education and is passionate about how she spends her time. But she never forgets to have fun. In fact, she adds it to her coach curriculum for her high-intensity interval training workouts at Fit Body Boot Camp.

For example, after realizing how much her clients hate doing star jacks (an exercise comparable to jumping jacks), Perez wanted to flip their frowns upside down.

“When I first was hired, I would (enthusiastically) say ‘I’m a star, I’m a star’ during star jacks and make them laugh and now they participate with me,” Perez said. “Now I say ‘look at those beautiful, bright, shining stars!’ I love the bond I have made with them and how supportive they are.”

A few of Perez’s clients support her not only through their attendance and attitude during workout classes but also by coming to her basketball games. Susan Washburn, a client at Fit Body Boot Camp, attended Perez’s homecoming basketball game.

Professor Mark Mannette congratulates Perez following the homecoming game at Newman University.
Professor Mark Mannette congratulates Perez following the homecoming game at Newman University.

“I was so grateful to be able to support Amaya by going to the game,” Washburn said. “It is such a small thing compared to all she does for me and all of us. She is exactly the same as she is in the gym. She makes every person around her feel that love and happiness.”

Washburn couldn’t say enough about the effect Perez has on her.

“Whenever I walk through the doors (of Fit Body Boot Camp) and see Amaya, all I can do is smile,” Washburn said. “She is just so filled with joy, it’s contagious. She brings her joy and happiness to everything she does.”

Amaya brings her joy and happiness to everything she does.

Susan Washburn, client at Fit Body Boot Camp

What continues to push Perez to be the contagious, positive influence she is? The better question isn’t asking “what,” but “who?”

Perez mentioned many people who have helped shape her into who she is today. First and foremost, Perez mentioned her mother and grandmother.

“My mom is my best friend — no one comes close to that woman,” Perez said. “My nana is my world. She would go to the ends of the earth for me.”

Perez made sure to mention how her basketball coaches have helped her as well.

“… and Joel Hannigan, my Association of American Universities coach. If I didn’t play on his basketball team growing up, I wouldn’t have a scholarship,” Perez said. “And speaking of basketball coaches, Amy Briggs is amazing. She is a huge hype man for me and she built my confidence up this year — just look at my stats from last year to this year.”

Perez’s statistics don’t lie. In her 2022-23 season, Perez scored 26 points and had 46 total rebounds, while during her 2023-24 season, Perez scored 155 points and had 127 total rebounds.

Amaya Perez (left), with teammates Brooke Burcham, Monica Redondo and Valeriya Lioukina (right)
Perez (left), with teammates Brooke Burcham, Monica Redondo and Valeriya Lioukina (right)

Perez has always been passionate about working out and sports. She has exponentially grown in her basketball career due to her hard work, mindset and mentors, while acting as a joyful and positive light to everyone she encounters. Off the court, Perez is excited for her future in special education, especially now that she has finished her general education courses.

“Sometimes, you feel like school becomes a chore,” Perez said. “But now that I am out of my gen eds, I am learning about stuff I look forward to. I get to make lesson plans and do things I will need for the future.”

Associate professor of education Huachwen Wen has been particularly helpful to Perez, even with her tedious schedule.

“Dr. Wen is amazing,” Perez said. “He is very understanding of everything and I am thankful for that. I am trying to get him to come to Fit Body Boot Camp.”

Whether Perez is on the court, in the classroom or working at Fit Body Boot Camp, she successfully juggles all her obligations.

“I think it’s fun and rewarding, but at the same time, it is not easy,” Perez said. “Sometimes, I have to make a few sacrifices but I am proud of myself for juggling my job, school and practice. What I am doing now is preparing me for the real world.”

Amaya Perez shares a “day in the life” video, showcasing what the student-athlete’s day typically consists of.

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