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‘I Can’t Believe It’s Done’

Diploma in hand, Julio Luevano is a step closer to his American dream

Julio Luevano on graduation day with his coach, mother and brother. SUBMITTED BY JULIO LUEVANO

Julio Luevano doesn’t quite know what to do these days when he comes home and actually has free time.

For four years, the Manchester University men’s soccer player’s time was planned before each day began: school and soccer practice during the day, his full-time job in maintenance at a local egg-packing facility at night, and a couple of pockets of rest in between. As a father of three pursuing his college dreams, the demands on his time often left him with only a couple of hours of sleep each day.

But in May, Luevano graduated with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and fitness. His schedule – like his future – is now wide open.

“I can’t believe it was really here,” he says. “I can’t believe it’s done.”

Champion readers who remember his story from the fall 2014 issue could understand. Luevano’s college dream was a moonshot. He arrived in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant, traversing the Mexican border covertly in 2001 while dodging bullets and fearing for his life. His new home was full of barriers: an unfamiliar language, racist taunts, fears of deportation and a daunting citizenship process.

Still, Luevano pressed on, spending more than a decade gaining citizenship and establishing an academic foundation before stepping onto the Manchester campus as a 32-year-old freshman. Each day was crammed with work, soccer and homework, but Luevano endured, motivated by an image of what graduation day might look like.

In May, both his mother, Micaela, and brother Victor Hugo made the trip from Mexico to watch Luevano become their family’s first college graduate. Luevano stepped onto the stage to the sound of audience members cheering his name and shook hands with Manchester President David McFadden while receiving his diploma. The campus was well aware of his story, and the end of this chapter showed how much has changed.

Luevano now is seeking a job in orthopedics and is pursuing coaching certifications that will allow him to remain connected to Manchester’s team as an assistant.

“I just want to be involved in the community and be something that people can look up to,” Luevano says.

Whichever path his future takes him down, Luevano wants to be looked upon as someone who works hard and dreams big. He wants to help others do the same. And maybe, when people remember his story, they’ll look to other Latino immigrants and see in them something similar.

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.