No matter what degree you're pursuing, there are always required foundational courses and electives you can't hide from. They don't quite pique your interests, but they have to be completed to earn a degree. This was the case for Perry Mayorga-Guerrero, San Jacinto College kickboxing instructor, who unexpectedly found his calling among those not-so-interesting courses.
While pursuing a criminal justice degree at San Jac in 2002, he took a kickboxing class to fulfill his P.E. requirement. At this point, working out was not very high on his list of preferred activities.
"When I first started, I didn't really like the concept of sweating," Mayorga-Guerrero said with a chuckle.
For him, having an instructor who made the class fun was what made the difference. He enjoyed the class so much that he eventually went on to earn his black belt and began mentoring fellow students while finishing his degree at San Jac.
By 2009, in addition to his associate degree, Mayorga-Guerrero also had three years of experience with the Houston Police Department. That's when his old professor recommended him for an open kickboxing instructor position at the College's North Campus, and he's been teaching kickboxing classes ever since. Currently, he teaches two courses each semester.
While most may see kickboxing as a recreational fitness course, Mayorga-Guerrero believes that students can potentially find a life-long hobby, much like he did, and it's also a way to keep themselves safe.
"People get robbed when they're just doing everyday things: going to the gas station, going to the store, stuff like that," he said. "[Martial arts training] empowers them to be aware of their surroundings."
Rather than have some students attend just to fulfill a degree credit, Mayorga-Guerrero encourages them to see the class as a fun way to be healthy and relieve stress.
"I know students focus more on completing their academic courses, but physical education actually helps in the long-term by lessening health problems and stress," he said. "I get a lot of students that are really stressed out, especially during testing times, and they find it's a good release."