HAMMOND | Samantha Hernandez landed her first job in the showbiz industry.
"I like it there," the 22-year-old Hammond woman said about the working environment at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster.
"I've always like the theater," she said. "My favorite plays are 'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'Little Shop of Horrors.'"
"We often go to see plays in Chicago," said Samantha's father, Trini Hernandez. "So when she was able to get a job there, she was very enthusiastic about it."
Samantha prepares the programs and hands them out to the patrons as they enter the show. She hasn't missed a day of work.
But it isn't just work and no play for Samantha. She's also a regular participant at the Tri-City Special Games, which are held annually at E.C. Central.
For this year's event, which was held May 18, Samantha was awarded the Games' "Pete Rucinski Athlete of the Year," named in honor of the late great E.C. Roosevelt football coach whose name adorns the stadium where the games are played.
"She does well ... running is her favorite event," said Samantha's mother, Vicky Kartz. "The award isn't based on how well one places in the events, but more for the hard work, enthusiasm, teamwork and sportsmanship."
In addition to the 50-yard dash, other Tri-City Games events include the long jump and the softball toss. But the event Samantha always looks forward to comes at the end of the games."
"I like to dance," Samantha said. "I like to dance to Nicki Minaj, Pink, Journey, Queen, ABBA ... and (the music from) 'Footloose.'"
Before going to her evening job, Samantha is a student at AccessAbilities, Inc., in Merrillville.
Aside from work and school, Samantha tries to stay physically active even when she's not competing.
"I do Zumba," she said of the style of aerobics set to the beat of Latin dance music. "Swimming is something I like to do, too."