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Air Force veteran takes advice from UCLA alum — and becomes a Trojan

🇺🇸 Military Appreciation Week: After stints in Kuwait and Afghanistan, Sebero Quintero turns down a six-figure bonus to be a first-generation student

Sebero Quintero
Sebero Quintero is president of the USC Veterans Association. (USC Photo/Ron Mackovich)

Sebero Quintero finds his own way. The president of the USC Veterans Association went straight into the Air Force when he finished high school, becoming the first in his family to join the military.

During seven years with the Air Force, he was deployed in Afghanistan and Kuwait as a mechanic, then built runways, hospitals and bridges as part of the Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer squadron. When he finished his Air Force commitment, Quintero was offered a highly sought-after training slot in military contracting with a six-figure signing bonus. Instead, he left the Air Force to become a first-generation college student.

“Not all money is good money,” Quintero said. “I would have been making good money, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to college.”

A Southern California native, Quintero had followed Trojan football and was drawn to USC. But it was an English professor at Santa Monica College who convinced him to apply.

“He was actually a UCLA alum,” Quintero said. “He said, ‘You should really look at USC. They have great programs for veterans.’ ”

Known around campus as “Sabbi,” Quintero enrolled at USC as a junior in the fall of 2016. USC, which ranked fifth on U.S. News & World Report’s most recent list of best colleges for veterans, exceeded his expectations, and Quintero found his tribe at the USC Veterans Association.

“I met everybody during the orientation, and I really liked what they were doing,” Quintero said. “It was great to find out there was an organization looking out for veterans. I was in a place where I wasn’t sure I wanted the military to identify who I was, but the USC VA changed that.”

Political aspirations?

Now a senior studying Italian and economics, Quintero leads the USC VA as president.

“This year we want to get our name out there more,” he said. “We want to let all veterans know you can come here and talk to people, take part in our events. We’re also working to see if we can get some housing for veterans coming to visit campus.”

Quintero’s own aspirations include law school and possibly the USC Marshall School of Business Master of Business for Veterans program. He sees entrepreneurship in his future, and said his USC VA presidency may be another “Sabbi first” that leads to greater things.

“People tell me I’m a good politician,” he said. “Down the road I may run for elected office. We’ll see.”

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Air Force veteran takes advice from UCLA alum — and becomes a Trojan

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