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Louder Than Words

How an athletics department custodian and a college softball player went from passing in the halls to a friendship

Kirbie Ferrell and Aida Pojoy started their friendship with an “hola.” Today, Ferrell helps Pojoy with her English studies, and Pojoy is a friend and mentor to Ferrell. BELMONT UNIVERSITY PHOTO

Aida Pojoy works the 4 a.m.-to-12:30 p.m. custodial shift at Belmont University, spending much of her time in the athletics department. Belmont senior Kirbie Ferrell’s softball team lifts weights at 7 a.m. three times a week. Inevitably, the two often would spot each other in the hallway that connects the laundry room to the training room and the locker room. One day, Ferrell spoke up.

“I probably just said something like, ‘Hola. ¿Cómo está?’” recalled Ferrell, the leadoff hitter for the Bruins.

The greeting was the beginning of a relationship neither of them could have anticipated. Pojoy immigrated to the United States from Guatemala City, Guatemala, and has worked at Belmont for 14 years. Ferrell, of Pasadena, Texas, is a Spanish and international politics major.

The two began to chat more often. Although Pojoy has been in the U.S. for 26 years – long enough to earn enough money to pay the legal fees required for her four children to join her in this country – she is not fluent in English. “At my church, they only speak Spanish,” Pojoy said. “My kids speak English, but they also speak Spanish, so whenever they’re with me, then tend to speak Spanish.”

In Ferrell, Pojoy had someone with whom she could practice her language skills. She revealed that she was taking English classes in a nearby town. Soon, Ferrell was helping her with homework.

“A lot of times she’ll leave her classes with book work to do, so we’ll just sit down and do her homework together,” Ferrell said. “If there’s something she doesn’t understand, we’ll go over it. And then we’ll just have conversation.”

Over time, that tutoring relationship developed into something more. Today, Ferrell and Pojoy call each other good friends. They have breakfast together when they can. And in exchange for that help with English, Pojoy gives Ferrell advice – even about relationships and seeing the world.

“She’s given me some of the best advice of anyone in my life,” Ferrell said. “She’s like a mom, but a cool one.” 

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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