Will Avera didn’t spend much time in high school caring about his academic performance.
This may come as a bit of a surprise when considering Avera’s robust time at The Master’s University, where he recently received a scholastic award. The 21-year-old also serves as a resident assistant in Smith Hall, captains the men’s volleyball team, and will soon graduate as a political studies major. But in the last few years, Avera says it’s been the field of academics where he’s experienced the most significant change.
In high school, Avera discovered his passion for volleyball. But pursuing the sport took precedence to his schoolwork, he says. His dreams to play in college hit a roadblock when, on graduating, he realized his grades kept many universities from recruiting him. He decided to attend a local college to undertake a personal reset.
But when a year passed, and Avera still hadn’t found a university where he could play volleyball, he began to pray for his future, saying, “God, give me clarity.”
Three days later, the Lord answered in the form of a phone call. Jared Goldberg, the head coach of TMU’s men’s volleyball team, asked Avera if he’d be interested in joining the Mustangs.
And so Avera, by then a junior, transferred to TMU as a political studies major. In his first semester, he signed up for courses with Dr. Gregg Frazer, Dr. John Stead, and Judge George Crawford.
“I dove in. I wanted to show that I’m all in for the professors,” he says.
Four semesters later, Avera says that the care shown to him by those professors successfully led him on the path of becoming a self-driven learner. He admits he never thought he’d enjoy academics this much. “I started treating it like a craft, like my sport. I actually like reading. I want to mark up my books because I know I’m going to keep them on my shelf later in life.”
He points to TMU’s size as one reason for the change. “It’s intimate. The smallest class I’ve been in was six people, and that’s awesome. The professors really care.”
For Avera, it’s a stark contrast to his mindset before TMU. “I only cared about grades as a means for volleyball, but I wasn’t passionate about what I was learning,” he says. Now, he pursues his schoolwork as an act of worshipping Christ, demonstrating the same drive and dedication that informs his sport. In fact, his efforts earned him a 2022 Golden State Athletic Conference Scholar-Athlete Award.
Avera still loves volleyball — he helped the Mustangs reach the NAIA tournament semifinals for the first time in program history this season — but he says his perspective is different. “It’s no longer about, ‘Am I the best guy? Am I on top of the totem pole?’ It’s, ‘Am I being faithful with the opportunity ahead of me?’”
As he prepares to graduate in May, Avera plans to use his remaining eligibility to play another season for the Mustangs while pursuing an MBA.
He believes the door that God opened through volleyball has brought him much more than an opportunity to compete on the court. “I’m going to care about learning going forward,” he says. “I’m going to appreciate it in a different way. And TMU really did that for me.”
Josephine Lee is a junior double-majoring in communication and interdisciplinary studies.
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