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Clemente Quintero: The game of betting on yourself

Clemente Quintero had two passions growing up, soccer and a love for learning. With the help of ACCESS U’s college counselors, Clemente weighed his college options and made the difficult decision to accept a full academic scholarship from Arizona State University and give up soccer. Or so he thought.

During his freshman year, Clemente discovered ASU’s Men’s Soccer Club program, which not only offered a much needed break from his studies, but also introduced him to new friends who helped ease his transition to college life. Clemente’s college experiences - from studying abroad to declaring his major in Biomedical Sciences to teaching students in Costa Rica - were all driven by his desire to honor his parents, Mexican immigrants who left home and made great sacrifices to come to the United States in search of better opportunities in life. 

ACCESS U is proud to help our talented scholar-athletes fulfill their academic and athletic potential and achieve their dreams. Read the full interview below.

Your story with soccer, how did it start?

It started with my dad. He played soccer growing up and once I was old enough, he put me on a soccer team and I took off from there.

Tell us about your family's history, your Latin roots, and how your parents came to the U.S., their sacrifices, and everything involved to build a family here.

Both of my parents are from Mexico. They decided to come to the U.S. to give their kids a better opportunity. My parents met in elementary school and they basically grew up together. From there, they wanted to obviously form a family, but they didn't want to form it in Mexico. So they wanted to come and migrate here in the U.S., to find a better opportunity. 

They pretty much sacrificed a lot because obviously they didn't know any English either. They were looking for jobs trying to provide for their family. We didn't have a car back then. 

When we got an apartment, there was nothing in there from what I can remember. When we were in a house for a bit, it was mostly my aunt helping us get a house and little plastic chairs to have at least some furniture.  

I also remember my dad working day in and day out to help provide for us. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, she would walk us to school, and then walk back. Ultimately, a lot of stuff did get better. 

There was a time in my life where my mom did get deported back to Mexico. And it was kind of hard for me, because I was young and I didn't know what was going on. I wondered, “Why’d they take my mom away?”. But now I do understand she wasn't supposed to be here. It was kind of a sad time for me.

How was your process of getting into Arizona State University (ASU) and what role did ACCESS U Foundation play?

ACCESS U Foundation was a new platform and tried helping me get into different colleges and showing me different universities. However at the time my options were very limited since I was already a senior in high school and didn't really promote myself out there that much because I did not know about the recruiting process or how anything worked. Most options were out-of-state DIII colleges, but I would be paying too much out-of-pocket. 

Other options were DII colleges, but I would have had to redshirt or try out the next season as a walk-on. In the end I ended up choosing an in-state school (Arizona State University) with the academic scholarship that was offered to me.

How did you start playing club soccer at ASU?

There was a club team that was formed at ASU. They didn't have a DI Men's soccer team, only a DI women’s team. But on my club team, there were players that were capable of playing DI or DII, but they could not play in college because it was too much money out of pocket. The way it operated was a President, Finance Director, etc. - basically an Executive Board - would run the club.  

We would have to train two times a week and then have games on the weekends. The way the overall competition works is first you win your conference and then you go to the regionals; and then from regionals, if you end up winning out there, you go to Nationals. The last Nationals was in Alabama and then you end up playing really good teams like Alabama State University or Ohio State University, and it's just really cool to see you're able to play that competitively. I would consider some of the club teams better than some DII teams. Our club team eventually got bigger after a while because we were restructuring it with my best friend. We weren't really very good at the beginning. But now it has really grown, we have over 150 students trying out! And the transportation upgrades have been surprising, the charter buses that take them everywhere are nice.  

What sacrifices did you make to study and play club soccer at ASU?

Moving out of my house after high school to living at college with over 40,000 students was a big change. It was a little hard at first adjusting to the lifestyle, especially not seeing a lot of Latinx and the school was mainly white. My parents  did have to sacrifice a little in helping me with money at first. Although I did get a full ride scholarship there, it doesn’t always cover other things. 

What difficulties did you face when going to college, how did you solve them, and from whom did you receive support?

In the beginning at ASU, being a freshman was predominantly hard altogether. It was kind of hard to figure out what I was doing, where to find my classrooms, where I could go to ask for help. It took me a bit, but I did end up finding other people within the same major and then other Latinos going through the same situations. I ended up using them as resources anytime I needed help. Sometimes they would share with me what kind of courses they were taking and why they were taking that route. Prior to that, I did not find it easy at all. There were late nights, some sleepless nights. When I had exams early the next day, I was studying all night. Sleepless nights for sure, nothing compared to high school. 

Being a student athlete in college can be challenging and rewarding. How did playing club soccer at ASU enhance your experience as a student?

My dad was a soccer player, so I grew up playing soccer. My whole family did, and they've always liked it. I wanted to keep playing, but I thought I couldn't because I didn't know what ASU could offer me in terms of soccer. I started college and ended up meeting a lot of people through pickup soccer. 

And then from there, I learned about the club team at ASU and I ended up playing with them as well. That motivated me, it added that little extra bonus in going to college as a full time student. On top of that, playing soccer was also a stress reliever for me a lot of times, because I would be taking 18-21 credit courses a semester, I would just get stressed and overwhelmed, taking classes, five classes a day, labs and exams. Playing soccer at the end of the day at night helped me relieve the stress.

Was there anyone important in your life who inspired or motivated you to study?

Both of my parents, hands down. They are the ones who have motivated me every day since. Every choice I made, I always had them in mind because I did not want to let them down knowing they sacrificed their lives coming to the United States to give me and my siblings a better life and an opportunity to do anything.

What led you to your decision to major in Biomedical Sciences? 

My interest in why I chose Biomedical Science came from my high school Biology and Chemistry classes. I just really found the study of life so intriguing. Why certain things happen but yet sometimes rules are not always followed.  It always brought up this question in my head like “why” and wanting to find an answer or theory. I was also thinking about Medicine and Finance, but I found myself saying, “I don't think Finance is really me.”

Biomedical Sciences is a complex field. Did you have a study technique or strategy that helped make your major less challenging and easier to learn?

In terms of mapping my college classes, they'd given me a breakdown of what my courses were going to be. And I basically just followed that path, to be honest with you, though there was no real direction into what electives I was planning to throw in my college course. 

I know there are students that do plan that ahead, but I just wanted to take it in as I was called day by day because I didn't want to get too ahead of myself and not know what I was doing. I was really open to a lot of things in college and I was trying new things, exploring my place. That’s how I ended up studying abroad. I don't know if it's like 2% or 20% that students do study abroad, which was really mind blowing to me, but I studied abroad twice. So I can say that I did study abroad during college as well.

Where was your study abroad experience through ASU?

It was in La Paz, Baja California Sur in Mexico at Grupo Tortuguero, a group for the conservation of sea turtles. It focused on megafauna research, basically on turtles, sharks, whale sharks, and we got to swim with them and study what they do down there. It was really interesting and it opened my mind, ”wow, all this stuff is happening and it's just a four hour flight down?”

In 2022, you went to Costa Rica for Spring Break to teach children about science and interesting experiments. Can you tell us more about that experience?

One of my favorite experiences abroad. The trip's main focus was giving back to the community. We were all college students with different backgrounds in Math, Biology, History, etc. and we were going to this school where we basically taught these classes. I went with the science group and we went over with what we wanted to teach the kids and experiments, etc. 

One of the challenges we came across is the limited resources, which the teachers had told us they faced daily since the town is in a very rural area. We improvised our experiments to simplify things and we found things at the marts nearby. Other things we got to do was see baby turtles hatch at night, surfing, and exploring a forest.

You graduated in 2022, where did your work history begin, and what are you currently doing?

My first job out of college was as a Lab Technician at a milk factory. After working there for 8 months, I decided to look at other jobs because they weren’t considering my degree and my raise was only $0.50. During this time, I was open-minded about applying to different places and did get an offer from Amazon. But I went on a waitlist to see if they would offer me a job in Arizona and they did. Then I moved over to Amazon as an Operations Manager and have been there now for a year.  

Do you wish to continue your studies with a specialization or postgraduate degree? If so, in what field?

If I could continue my education I think I would switch it in a different direction in supply chain management, logistics or engineering.

Any advice for future generations of Latinx who aspire to study and play soccer at the college level?

Be open-minded and not afraid to fail.


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