Meet Our Team – Matt Sotelo
This is the sixth in the series of interviews with the College Success Arizona team.
Continuing with this feature, and throughout the next year, we’ll be taking a closer look at the College Success Arizona team, the people that make all that we do happen. We’ll be asking the normal “tell us a little about yourself” questions, but also delving a little deeper into each team member’s personality, and what makes them who they are.
This month’s subject is Matt Sotelo, one of College Success Arizona’s great Success Advisers.
What is your role at College Success Arizona?
I’m a Success Adviser and I’ve got students in the South region of Arizona. So, U of A, Pima, and all of the Yuma schools, and I have some ASU students. I’m also the success coach for the EXCEL Program.
Please share with us a little bit about your background?
I grew up mostly in Colorado and them I came to ASU for college, and I just never left after graduation.
How did you come to be associated with College Success Arizona?
I’ve been working in the nonprofit sector since graduating college seven years ago. I met Myrna Cardenas, who is now the manager of Success Services, in my first job out of college. She and I remained friends, and when this opportunity came up she told me about it and I applied – and now it’s been four years.
What is the best thing about working with students (or your job)?
Just seeing them grow, and being able to be a consistent presence in their lives, outside of their school. Seeing them reach their goals, and get job offers a week or two before graduating, or even a few months before graduating – that’s definitely the most rewarding part of this job.
Why do you feel increasing Arizona’s College Attainment Rate is so important?
More and more jobs are going to be requiring secondary education and beyond, whether it be certification or technical school, or degrees. So, it’s definitely important that we increase the attainment rate so that our younger generations coming into the workforce can be prepared.
What is your vision for the Arizona of the future?
I really hope that the quality of education, K through twelve, kind of gets on the same page. There are certain areas in the valley, and in the state, where students excel and then you can go to the next zip code over, and they have failing grades. I would like to see some conformity and uniformity in the quality of education for everyone, and also access to higher education for everyone, as well.
If you had a message for a student just beginning their college career, what would that be?
A lot of my conversations with students have to do with just staying on track and not letting anything deter you from your goals, visions, and dreams. It’s really a message of perseverance that there are things that might get in the way, and there might be some barriers in front of you, but there’s a reason that they are there – to test you and to prove to yourself that you can make it through.
What was your First or most interesting job?
I’ve been working since I was 16, so I’ve worked anywhere from the food industry, to Home Depot, Two Men and a Truck, lawn care – I’ve done a little bit of everything. One of my most memorable experiences comes from working at the Boys and Girls Clubs when we had a grant for a program that encouraged STEM and ocean research for students. The grant helped pay for two students and myself to visit the world famous Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut. We were able to also go out on the ocean, which was really great because I also have a love for marine biology. The students that I took had not been on an airplane before, outside of Arizona, so it was awesome to be able to share that experience with them. I still talk to those students, who are going to be juniors in high school, and we still talk about that trip, which is cool.
What is your career history?
Out of college, I worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America for about a year or so. I interviewed incoming volunteers and incoming little kids, and then I would match them up and move them on to a program support specialist. From there, I went to the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Scottsdale where I was an education coordinator. I worked with the kinder-through-six-graders, and I managed the homework room and the learning center.
What are your hobbies/favorite pastime?
I love traveling. If I’m not working, I’m trying to figure out the next trip. I also like trying new foods and experiencing new things. I try to go off of the “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” list and eat at as many of those restaurants as possible.
What is your Favorite TV show?
It’s hard to choose. I watch everything from “The Office” to “Breaking Bad” which was amazing.
What’s the band you’d listen to for the rest of your life?
I’m a big fan of country music, and I really like the music of Tim McGraw and the Zac Brown Band.
What is your proudest moment?
Graduating with my bachelor’s degree and having my parents down here to see that, was my proudest moment.