20-year-old Leonardo Paredes is currently enrolled in his fifth semester at Fullerton College.
Paredes arrived in California from Brazil in fall of 2014, searching for an opportunity to develop his independence as well as improve his education at a higher level.
In his first semester at Fullerton College, he tried his hands at tennis. The following year tried his feet at soccer and found it was his calling.
Back in Brazil, people did not have the opportunity to play a sport and study simultaneously Paredes explained.
He discovered that he could play soccer instead and get a good degree in the United States.
It is widely known to the world that soccer in Brazil is more than a sport. It’s a lifestyle.
For Leonardo and many other Brazilians, the sport has already been embedded in an individual since childhood.
“We were born into soccer. We just kick everything and say it’s a ball,” Parades said.
For Paredes, the sport serves as a stress reliever from the pressures of school and missing his family.
“When I come here and play soccer, it’s like the best part of the day. I really love it here because I feel that I’m part of a family.”
During this season Paredes scored his very first goal against Santa Ana which ended with a 3-2 victory for the Hornets.
Greg Aviles, head coach for men’s soccer at Fullerton College, is proud of the diversity of his team.
“Our players come from different walks of life and we try to break down walls.”
Coach Aviles admires Parades’ open mindedness to being familiarized of the new cultural environment.
“We really work with our guys to understand what they want to do. They have to be more diligent in what their next step is, and we are there to help them achieve that,” Aviles said.
Parades was aware of the language barrier between team members saying, “It was little bit hard to adapt and play soccer here.”
Paredes states that “[Coach Aviles] never gave up on me. He understood me. He gave me opportunities and ways to help me get good grades.”
In his academics, Paredes is currently studying towards a business administration and marketing degree.
He aspires to work alongside his father in his cleaner product company after he graduates.
Here in California, Parades would reminisce about the times playing soccer every weekend with his father and brother.
“He’s like my hero, I wanna be like him,” Parades said referring to his father.
Back home, Paredes has two siblings, an 18-year-old brother and a 15-year-old sister he describes as the “princess” of his family.
He also cites his mother as a strong and supportive figure in his family.
Although Paredes would try to call almost everyday, he occasionally visits his family during winter and summer breaks.
Paredes resides in the dormitories provided by Hope International University. The college welcomes and opens their doors to international students who attend neighboring schools and colleges.
“I have everything that I need, a lot of support from many people, a lot of good friends. I don’t have anything to complain, I have a pretty good life,” Paredes proudly stated.
In one word, Paredes describes California as simply “amazing.”
“It’s a place I don’t want to leave, where I can live with my family and grow up with my kids,” Paredes said.