B.S. ‘16, Exercise Science
Captain, AU Gymnics
Xiara Mercado has been attending Andrews University for three years. She transferred in 2013 from Antillean Adventist University in Puerto Rico. In 2016, Mercado graduated with an exercise science degree. After graduation, Mercado has stuck around the Andrews University community. One of the things Mercado is known for on campus is her position as a captain of the Andrews University Gymnics Team. According to her teammates, she has been a strong part of the team, bringing other team members together and pushing them to reach their full potential. Xiara is currently preparing herself to serve in the United States Air Force.
How did you end up coming to Andrews?
I wanted a change of scenery. I had been attending Antillean for three years working on a nursing degree and I wanted to finish at either Andrews or Southern. Along with that my family didn’t respect my belief as a Seventh-day Adventist and I wanted to be somewhere where I could grow spiritually. I visited Andrews in the summer of 2011 for Acrofest and to see what the different schools had to offer. To be completely honest, what sold me was the AU Gymnics team. I saw that this team was very friendly and inviting and when I looked closer I saw that they had a strong spiritual connection. Southern’s team was good, too, but there was something about Andrews that really made me want to be a part of that team. So I made my decision to attend Andrews because of the gymnastics team.
How have you made a difference on campus?
Well, I was involved in a lot of sports here. In every team that I’ve been a part of I have tried to use my performance as a ministry, more specifically in Gymnics. I tell others that what we do is not to bring praise to ourselves but to bring honor and glory to God. I like to try new things and push myself. In the three years that I’ve been on the gymnastics team I have been a part of a few new endeavors. I was blessed to be part a group to introduce some new routines to the Gymnics. My first year, I was chosen to be part of the first ever acro-yoga group. My second year Kenny Nogueira and I asked to be part of the first ever mixed pairs silks routine. Coach allowed us to do it and I have to say it was a success. This year I was able to be part of the first pairs lyra routine.
What inspired you to join the Air Force?
I think what mainly sparked my decision was my aunt Marlene. Since I was young she has been my favorite aunt. She was the youngest of my mom’s sisters, so we were only 10 years apart. We would hang out a lot and she would take care of my brother and I. She was very studious and smart; when I was younger I was always being compared to her because I had good grades too. When she became 18 her parents couldn't afford to send her to college so she decided to join the Air Force because she thought that was the best thing for her future. When she made that choice I was in shock; I didn’t understand all the reasons why she did it. As I got older, however, I started looking into not only the Air Force, but other military branches, and saw that there were a lot of benefits that came along with enlisting.
My family wasn't rich but we lived comfortably. My brother and I didn't need to share anything, but after high school the economy went down a little bit and, like any other family, we began to struggle. I started thinking about my future and stability and the idea of the military came up again; I saw the military being something adventurous and something that I wouldn't be bored with. I also thought that it wasn't a bad idea because my aunt who I look up to is also involved. I guess it was just thinking about stability; not only for my future but for my family as well.
Why the Air force specifically?
I've been involved in its six-year process talking to different recruiters and some of them would paint the other branches almost like fairytales; I know the military is a serious thing and it has its dangers and risks, however many recruiters would not be straight-forward about those things. I also weighed in the benefits of each branch and personally found that the Air Force has the most and best benefits.
If there's an actual war, we help all the other branches as they do their duties, but we're the last ones to actually go to battle because we act as a support branch. I also saw the Air Force as a “smarter” branch because you need to get a higher score for the Air Force as opposed to the other branches. Their overall scores are a lot higher than the others and so I saw it as a challenge I wanted to conquer.
They also have a retirement program that is really good. If I start now at the age of 25, I will retire at 45 which I feel gives me the freedom to do whatever I need to do to take care of my family and provide monetary stability.
What was your fondest memory at Andrews?
I think I’d have to say this year’s home show. In the three years that I have been on the team I think that this year’s team has been the closest in working together and bonding. Everyone was on the same page and our priorities were definitely unified. We put God first in everything we did, both on and off the mats. This home show was a bittersweet moment for me. The crown was so engaged and the team worked really hard this year. We all worked together to make this home show special and I feel that the audience could really see God in the work that we did together.
What would you say to the students as they continue their experience at Andrews University?
Your experience is whatever you make it. It will definitely be better if you cling to God and find a way to de-stress. Remember to prioritize and put God first. There will be ups and down but God is greater than the highs and lows.