November 2023

SA grad helping promote educational access, success

As a longtime resident of San Antonio, Damaris Cavazos Fike wants to see her city flourish like any other San Antonian. And with her own experience always in the front of her mind, she realizes what many others do: education and training is key.

So Damaris after 17 years of full-time ministry changed her path to another nonprofit role and joined the staff at San Antonio Education Partnership, an entity aimed at helping provide access and tools for success in education.

“Our ultimate goal is really to help individuals’ economic mobility. We are here in San Antonio, the

Fike interviewed on TV
Damaris interviewed on local news about college fairs

third most impoverished in the top US cities,” said Damaris, a 2020 graduate of Wayland’s campus there. “If we really want to see San Antonio thrive, we have to ensure that our families and individuals have the ability to grow economically, and a lot of that takes education and certification, so they can get the jobs that pay higher wages and be in the industries that are in high demand.”

It was a time in her own life when Damaris was seeking growth both professionally and financially that she found the opening in development work at SAEP and jumped at the chance to make a difference in the organization that was part of her own story to earning her Wayland degree. She serves as director of community partnerships and engagement, involving both fundraising and marketing for the organization that has been a pillar of the community for nearly 35 years. 

Looking back

Damaris followed the traditional path out of high school, enrolling at a Christian university in another town. But after three semesters, things weren’t going as she’d planned, and the cost was a burden. After that, her path took her several places before landing in San Antonio. It was in San Antonio she later finished an associate’s degree at the International Academy of Design and Technology all while working in full-time ministry at a local church, CityChurch San Antonio and loving her role. 

But when Damaris and husband Robert had their first daughter in 2016, she said a switch flipped inside and she felt a deeper motivation to complete her degree. But just as she had earlier, the process felt daunting as a first-generation student needing to navigate all her options. 

“Here I was at 30 years old in 2018, working full-time at the church, married and had a daughter. I ended up at the city’s Café College, a one-stop-shop for all things college advising,” Damaris recalls. “I made my way there, met with an advisor and shared my situation, telling her I wanted whatever degree would get me there the quickest. The advisor had several recommendations but really thought I should consider Wayland. She gave me an idea of what would transfer and the credits for life experience, and I could see the finish line. I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

And she did. She attended night classes and some hybrids, juggling family life with her education for a few years and wrapping up the degree in February 2020, just a month before the pandemic shut down the world and days before she gave birth to her second daughter. Admittedly one to shy away from the spotlight, Damaris nonetheless felt pride at her accomplishment and that her daughters would know that hard work was possible.

Looking ahead

With this great experience behind her, Damaris was proud to bring her skills and passion to SAEP and to help them stay strong in their mission to provide college access and success and to reinvent

Damaris and family
Damaris and family

itself in the changing city landscape. The organization has several programs to accomplish this, including advisors at 41 high schools in the San Antonio area. The aforementioned Café College is a city-contracted service that provides an extra measure of assistance for prospects and current students.

“They can help with filling out the FAFSA, career exploration, college advising, applications, and work with non-traditional students, and international or undocumented students. They take all the information, and based on that individual’s journey, they can make recommendations on next steps,” Damaris said, noting that can include training and certification programs as well as traditional higher education. “The dedicated advising program provides continuous support through the journey. 

SAEP also gives out $2.1 million in scholarship aid to local students attending one of the local higher education partners to help remove the financial barriers that prevent so many from pursuing degrees. Recipients, enrolled in college, are then part of the Scholar Success Program that follows them and provides mentorship and connection to resources to help students persist to complete their degree. That may even include emergency funds to help with expenses such as unexpected school expenses or transportation that can inhibit degree completion.

Though she no longer works in front-line ministry, Damaris sees her role with SAEP as a way to serve people and still make an impact alongside her coworkers who share that same passion. She desires for the Kingdom of God to be reflected on earth, where people are thriving and living with purpose. Currently, however, the demographics of those in San Antonio earning degrees does not mirror the ethnic demographics of the city. 

“This is really helping people at a disadvantage to access the same education that others have been able to access. But it doesn’t stop there; it’s for them to be able to persist throughout,” she says. “With those degrees or certifications, they can move up in employment, sustain their families and pour back into their communities as well.”

For Damaris, the role allows her to live out her own purpose of seeing the intrinsic value in all people.  It’s something her husband and three daughters – Thea, 7, Ruth, 3, and Avi, 16 months – both inspire and support.

“I originally studied cultural missions, which is sharing the gospel to different cultures. Though I don’t do that with preaching or teaching, I would like to think I do that through how I serve and love people now,” she says. “It may not be my degree, but it is my calling.”


Alum living baseball dreams through Marlins role

As a young boy growing up in the Dominican Republic, Bryan Nunez dreamed like many of playing professional baseball. And while that dream didn’t materialize, he’s living the next best thing by working on the business side of Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins.  

A 2019 graduate of Wayland who spent two years swinging his bat on Wilder Field with the Pioneer Baseball squad, Bryan is in membership sales with the Florida team, working with corporate contacts and organizations to plan group outings to the Marlins’ games and other opportunities to

Nunez at ballpark
Bryan at the Marlins' trophy case

partner with the program.

“We can do a package with food and beverage, a box and other special promotions. We let them know what they might not be aware is available here besides just ticketing, like doing a conference before a game or meetings before the game in our spaces,” noted Bryan. “We sell them the ticketing but also educate them on opportunities, like inviting business prospects out to the game, or their employees to build morale and culture, or it could be to retain new business by bringing clients or investors out to a game.”

Bryan is nearing the two-year anniversary of his joining the Marlins, and he says he enjoys the business aspect of the game. But being able to stay after work to catch any home game is an obvious perk as well.

“I hate to miss if somebody hits a homerun or makes a great play. A big plus is that when we need to take a breather, our offices are inside the stadium, so we can walk the promenade and see the field, look outside and have the view of downtown, and I think that’s pretty cool,” says Bryan.

Admittedly, Bryan had not followed the Marlins as much as other clubs who tend to get more Dominican players, like the Red Sox. But he says working in the atmosphere and getting to know some of the players at team events has made the program grow on him. And from a purely business point of view, it makes his job easier when the team is doing well on the field.

Boyhood dreams

Bryan followed in the footsteps of many Dominican children who yearn for a career in sports, and baseball is something of an obsession on the island nation. There, students become free agents at age 16 and can sign with any program at that young age. By the time they get to age 18, when most American youth are looking to sign with colleges, Bryan said the window of opportunity begins to close. Bryan attended a special program to hone his baseball skills, attending a regimented training during the week, combined with home-schooling, and attending school mostly on Saturdays.

“The universities there do not have sports programs, so if you want to keep playing, you have to go to the U.S., so that’s what I did. An agency helped me find places to go,” said Bryan, noting his first

Nunez stadium
Bryan at the Marlins' home ballpark

stop was at El Paso Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree before transferring to Wayland.  “I had stayed in contact with Assistant Coach Todd Weldon because he tried to recruit me to Wayland at first but I wasn’t able to come directly there. When I applied to the NAIA portal, they did not think I was prepared to go to a NCAA or NAIA school, so I found out (junior college) was the best route.”

After arriving at WBU, Bryan said he found a home to play his sport, learn more about business and feel part of a special family. He remembers fondly one game in which he hit a triple with the bases loaded against a strong opponent, tying up the score. But his most vivid memories took place off the field.

“I am very grateful that I went to Wayland. I had a great relationship with Coach Brad Bass and Coach Weldon. I wouldn’t change that for anything. They taught me a lot about how to treat others. They did a good job of treating everybody the same; whether you were the best player on the team or not as good, they would still have meaningful conversations with you,” says Bryan.

“I pay close attention to how people treat others and how they talk to people and to me. I found them to be really great people, so I had a really good time in the baseball aspect and in my studies. I learned a lot during my time there, not only in the classroom but more importantly the life lessons I learned in the sport and with teammates and coaches. It was really nice.”

Road to the majors

After earning his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from WBU in 2019, Bryan followed Coach Weldon to Scotland Campus Sports, a boarding school in Pennsylvania, to serve as an international recruiter helping other students play in America and go on to play for U.S. colleges. While there, he helped his brother Arturo come to the U.S. and earned an MBA degree from Shippensburg University. Arturo then attended Wayland as well, where he earned a degree in May and is working on a master’s degree while playing out his eligibility with the Pioneers.

Bryan served three years with Weldon at Scotland, meeting and marrying his wife Carmelys along those years. When Weldon returned to WBU to become head coach, Bryan left as well to find other opportunities. He just wasn’t sure what was out there that would allow him to be involved in sports but not be a coach.

“I wanted a career where I could grow and support my family every way I could. It was difficult to know what career path to take, because I didn’t know all the opportunities out there. I knew the regular jobs like working at a bank or at different traditional jobs. I thought baseball jobs were only the coaching side, then I found out you could be a recruiter and do different things,” he said.

“A friend of mine suggested I apply for a baseball team but I thought it was really hard to get in with them. I applied, got the interview and that’s how I got here. When I started working with the Marlins, I didn’t know there were so many layers to the business behind a baseball team. It’s been interesting learning and growing more. It involves everything from my business education.”

Bryan is excited to see what the future holds as far as other advancement opportunities within the Marlins or other teams and is just trusting God to guide him in that arena.

“I don’t know where God will take me as far as the baseball side. Sales is a tough job, and I don’t know if I see myself always doing it but it’s been a good two years,” he said. 


Devotional: What the Lord hates

Proverbs 6:16-19

We throw around the word “hate” without much regard for what it really means. I realized this when I was watching a movie and the teenage child character was replying with “I hate this” and “I hate that.” “What in the world could a 13 year old teenager, hate?” But we all do it, too. We say we hate anything being left on the counter. We hate slippery roads. We hate, we hate, we hate.

“Hate” in today’s passage is much more serious than the way we use the word. It doesn’t mean that God just “doesn’t like” this or that. Rather, God’s “hating” these seven things means that He utterly despises and rejects them. These things do more than cause God to frown; they invoke His animosity and rejection. 

"No Hate" sign displayed

This should frighten us because we are guilty of most of these sins. We have had haughty eyes and a lying tongue. We have devised wicked schemes. We have rushed into evil. We have lied and stirred up conflict. We have even murdered people in our hearts, which Jesus tells us is just as bad as the physical act (see Matt. 5:21–22). These verses are a stern warning to guard our hearts and lives, lest we find ourselves on the wrong side of God’s fury.

Read in isolation, this passage can seem crippling. Like Jesus’ disciples, we may hear this and exclaim, “Who can be saved?” To which Jesus responds to His disciples, and to us today: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:25–26). The bad news is that we are all guilty. The good news is that God has provided forgiveness for the things He hates through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. 


In the Mix

Wayland has long been nicknamed "Wedding Bells University" and for good reason. Many students have met and married their spouses at WBU, and we know there are some creative stories about how you met your true love, courting outside Matador Hall or creative dates on campus.

One example is from Alan Wayne Sower ('92 Graduate-"In My Words" Book), "When I was in high school, an alumnus of Wayland Baptist University lived in my area of Colorado. We went to visit the university, and I decided that it would be a good fit for me. The university staff was like a family that supports and cares for each member. The family atmosphere was great--the professors and even the ladies in the lunchroom cared about me. I met my wife at Wayland Baptist, and we have been married for 31 years. That's the best thing that came out of Wayland Baptist for me in my life. My daughter also went to Wayland Baptist and met her husband. My time at the university has shaped me into a person who is there to serve others, whether it be at church or at school. I never thought I would've gone to Wayland Baptist, but it gave me meaning in my life."


Do you have a wonderful story you would like to share and would like to be included during a social media series during Homecoming 2024?  If you are interested in sharing your story and a possible opportunity for an interview, please send story and a picture of you and your significant other (then and now) to: veraj@wbu.edu.