Juan Quero is the quintessential oldest child: self-disciplined, organized and ambitious.
The eldest of four, he’s set the bar high. His steadfast focus on attending UC Davis paid off last year, when he was awarded a $20,000 scholarship from the Ventura County Community Foundation and became the first in his family to attend college. He’s slated to graduate in 2019.
This fall, like many siblings often do, his sister Stephanie Quero followed in his footsteps as an incoming freshman at UC Davis. In fact, she also earned a scholarship through the Ventura County Community Foundation, totaling up to $28,000, in addition to two others from Oxnard High School.
They attribute their success to a supportive family made up of mom Aimee Sosa; brother Jason Sosa, 9; sister Shantell Thompson, 7; as well as grandparents and multiple uncles. Their father died when they were little.
“Our life was really hard, with them being so young [when he died],” said Aimee, who works in homeless services for Ventura County. “Because of that, I always showed them that you don’t give up. There is something more powerful than your problems, so you cannot give up.”
The similarities between Juan and Stephanie are striking: Both participated in a college prep program aimed at first-generation students, edited their high school newspaper and ran cross country and track. Juan is a team paintball player, and Stephanie helped organize a farmers market in their hometown of Oxnard and a feminist club in her high school.
Law and politics are mutual interests for Juan, who’s majoring in English and sociology, and Stephanie, who is a political science public service major.
Stephanie said Juan is a role model for her.
“I’ve always admired him not only because he’s my brother, but because he’s always done beyond what he was told to do,” said Stephanie. “I can see him and be inspired by him and do more than that if I am capable of doing so.”
Juan agreed: “My goal is for her and my siblings to be better than me. My example shouldn’t be the best; it should just be improved upon.”
In his first year at UC Davis, Juan concentrated on his classes and volunteering in the Welcome Center to talk to visiting high schoolers. This year, he is a resident advisor in the Segundo residence halls — less than a mile from Stephanie in Tercero.
Being in school together offers a familiar comfort — for Stephanie and Juan, and for their mom who said she previously worried about her eldest son living six hours away from the rest of his close-knit family.
And though Stephanie considered other schools, she said UC Davis felt right. (She even counted the number of people who smiled at her on her first visit, with UC Davis winning handily.) Plus, Juan has all the resources to help her make a smooth transition.
“I definitely wanted her to come here because I saw from my classmates the advantages of knowing someone on campus already,” Juan said.
That doesn’t mean her first year will be a cakewalk, Stephanie stressed.
“He always pushes me to be independent,” she said. “That’s also what I appreciate because it’s nice to have a little bit of freedom, too.”
Aimee beamed with pride when discussing her children’s accomplishments. She worked hard to get them to college — sometimes two to three jobs at a time with extended family also pitching in — but insisted that she doesn’t have the secret to raising bright and conscientious children.
Still, attending UC Davis is poised to become a family tradition.
Aimee said: “If you ask my daughter [Shantell] what school she wants to go to for college, she will say she wants to go to Davis, too.”
Additional reporting by Marissa Stein