Junior stars on volleyball team after leaving Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria


Jade Pinkowitz

Junior Rafael Fernandez came here from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and now plays on the Watkins Mill volleyball team.

Aisha Sowe and Leah Niles

It is not uncommon for Watkins Mill students to be immigrants from other countries seeking new better experiences in the Untied States. One such student moved to Montgomery County from Puerto Rico only a year ago, where he played volleyball for his whole life and even played for a national team.

Junior Rafael Fernandez moved here last October after Hurricane Maria hit his home. When he initially found out that he was moving to the mainland, he was in denial because he wanted to stay in Puerto Rico. “I cared about my family,” Fernandez said. 

Fernandez has been playing volleyball for nine and a half years. When he lived in Puerto Rico, he was coached to play volleyball at a young age. After moving to Montgomery County, he joined the boys varsity volleyball team at The Mill. Fernandez had played for the national team in Puerto Rico and hopes to play for a travel team in the future. 

When Fernandez started school at Watkins Mill, he joined the boys team playing as an outside hitter. Boys volleyball coach Michael Brown decided to let him on the team since he has been playing the sport for most of his life. “I thought, why not give it a shot?” Brown said.

After being at Watkins Mill for almost a year and playing for the volleyball team, Fernandez has been receiving a lot of positive feedback from his coach and teammates. “[Fernandez] is a great person and is very humble. He really brings everyone up and gives you advice and compliments you well,” junior Sanam Mittal said.

Fernandez has traveled extensively, to places such as South Beach, Orlando, New York, Chicago and Arizona. “I have family [in the United States], so I can spend time with them,” Fernandez added. However, he still plans to travel back home to Puerto Rico for Christmas.

After high school, Fernandez would like to go to a Division 1 college for volleyball. “I like [the United States] because you get to have more opportunities,” Fernandez added. He would like to thank the students for welcoming him at Watkins Mill.

“[Fernandez] is one of the best athletes [in volleyball] to go to Watkins Mill,” Brown added. “I think he has great potential to play college volleyball for a full scholarship.”

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