USF Office of Veterans Services Director Lawrence Braue,
Navy Reservist Chris Quintero and Assistant Director Tony Rivera
at the Veterans Achievement Center. Aimee Blodgett/USF News
USF Veteran Services helps student reach goals
TAMPA, Fla. -- Graduating Senior Christian Quintero didn’t give himself any time to transition from the military to USF -- literally. He was discharged, received his DD214 papers and jumped into a car. Within 14 hours of leaving the Navy he was on campus ready to start classes.
The USF Office of Veterans Services took care of what time could not -- in the form of wise counsel and the opportunity to be among people who understood the world from which he came. Quintero’s fellow veterans -- including USF staff and fellow students he met in class and at the Veterans Achievement Center -- gave him some of his most valuable and useful advice. An important required class helped, too.
“My very first class, on vet success, taught me how to effectively become a student, that was my transition,” Quintero said. “It set a foundation and was able to change my way of thinking, I truly believe if I hadn’t taken that class, I wouldn’t have been as successful as I have been.”
What also made a difference was, “Being with like-minded students, able to have conversations and build camaraderie -- that’s hard to find elsewhere.”
Quintero’s experience at USF touched on the three areas the Office of Veterans Affairs seeks to impact: “academic success, professional growth and meaningful employment.” From his perspective as director of the Office of Veterans Affairs, Lawrence Braue looks upon him with admiration and a sense of accomplishment.
"Christian is the walking definition of student veteran success," he said. "He is a perfect example of why USF invests in the lives of our student veterans. I am so very proud of his achievements. He is an amazing young man, and I have no doubt that he will make a significant impact in this world.”
Quintero earned this respect simply by living up to his own high standards and making use of what Veterans Services had to offer -- from the very beginning -- from that first class.
“We were taught the importance of networking,” Quintero said and he put that lesson to good use. In fact, that’s how he found his first public relations job and the job he has now.
“Dr. Braue introduced me to Brian Butler of Vistra Communications,” Quintero said. “He hired me and he turned out to be a wonderful mentor.”
From there, advancing his career a year-and-a-half later, Quintero networked to his current job working with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) collocated in Lutz and Virginia.
A rocky start
Between that first day on campus and commencement this Saturday, Quintero worked full time, attended school full time and managed to build a home life with his wife and their young son. That’s where the Vet Center came in handy once again -- when things started becoming overwhelming.
“I can remember myself in Tony Rivera’s office, after working 15 hours straight and about to crack,” Quintero said. “I went to him for guidance.”
Guidance was what he needed, carrying a full load of courses and aiming for straight A’s in each one.
“He told me not to worry and not to stress,” Quintero said. “He made it seem like ‘you’ll get through this’ and that it was OK to drop a course; it was not a failure.”
Now graduating in the top 10 percent of his class and invited into the National Honor Society Kappa Tau Alpha, failure was really never an issue. Being tough on himself was.
“In the military, I was used to just getting the job done no matter what and I brought that way of thinking with me,” he said.
After taking a few courses during his time in the military, Quintero arrived at USF with enough credits to be able to finish in two and a half years. One of his biggest motivations for joining the military was the education benefit. “In addition to feeling it was my patriotic duty, I didn’t want debt,” he said. “I knew it would be a slightly longer route but I knew it would be best for me and my future.”
Quintero’s interest in science at Miami Sunset Senior High School led him to focus on becoming a surgical assistant in the U. S. Navy’s hospital corps based in Bethesda, Md. He had planned to stay in the Navy until the cumulative effect of close to five years active duty -- having treated thousands of wounded veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and a tour in Haiti where he was part of the humanitarian mission following the 2011 earthquake -- gave him pause. Aboard the USNS Comfort, he was barely in Port-au-Prince before diving right in to work nearly non-stop on more than 1,500 surgical cases during a three-month period. What made it particularly difficult for him was that he was away from his family when his son began to crawl.
“I missed a significant milestone,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss anything else.”
Though still in the Navy Reserves, college became his next challenge. After his first semester he decided on a career in communications largely because he likes interacting with people. Quintero is graduating with a major in public relations from the School of Mass Communications.
The job he has now taps into his interest in science as well as his desire to work in the public service arena. As a public affairs specialist, he works for the USGS headquarters in the office of communications and publishing. His agency is tasked with managing water, biological, energy and mineral resources and providing reliable scientific information about the planet -- a great fit.
Quintero’s mentor Butler still continues to provide guidance. What impressed Quintero most was “how he’s been able to maintain a family life, still be a professional and how important it is to be a good father and successful family man.”
And he’s putting that lesson to good use now, too, working in cooperation with his wife Lara, a nursing student who he met in the service.
“We always make time for our family, dinner every night together, we do all of our chores and nighttime routines together, because I recognize the importance of family -- always family-oriented -- that’s the story of my life.”
Rivera, who serves as assistant director of the Office of Veterans Services, has been impressed with Quintero's work ethic and his sense of responsibility.
"Christian is one of the best student veterans that I have had the pleasure of meeting here at USF,” Rivera said. “Right from the start, we were able to connect not just from our experiences as veterans, but also as a student and as a family man."
Quintero's wife, son, parents, siblings a cousin and several friends will be on hand to watch him walk across the stage at the USF Sun Dome.
“I'm really excited about this because they have all, in one way or another, supported me throughout this long process. My wife especially has helped me tremendously and she is a big reason of why I have been so successful.
“My proudest moment will be celebrating the culmination of hard work and the support of my family and friends. It's also nice to be able to check off a goal which started so long ago when I joined the military with the education benefits in sight.”
For more information about USF’s Office of Veterans Affairs, call 813-974-2291 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed under:Arts and Sciences Mass Communications Student Success
Author: Barbara Melendez