Enjoying a humbling experience

Note: This feature I wrote is on Alejandre is on the front page of sports in the Star-News and the Tribune.

Rosemead’s Alejandre grateful for opportunities

By Miguel A. Melendez
Staff Writer

ROSEMEAD — Adan and Rosa Alejandre Guillen went through a roller coaster of emotions when they left their native Michoacan, Mexico, some 20 years ago.

They were relieved and excited to start a new life in a country where, if you work hard and show dedication, you can amount to anything.

There also was a sense of fear, though, of not knowing how to adapt, a bit of culture clash where certain things are much different than what the Guillens were used to.

It’s been a long and at times lonely road, but the Guillens steered ahead and have four children who have dedicated their lives to succeeding in academics as well as athletics.

At the center of it is Rosemead High School quarterback Angel Alejandre.

The senior, who boasts a 3.7 GPA, is as humble as they come. For as long as he’s known, his life has always revolved around sports.

He grew up playing soccer with his father, and he still does.

They get together every Sunday morning and play in a soccer league, like most Mexican families do over the weekend. They also get together after those games for good ol’ carne asada, like most Mexican families do over the weekend.

When Rosa and Adan came to the U.S., they were just happy they could offer their children a different kind of life, one in which there wouldn’t be a limit to their ambitions and dreams.

So far, all four children are taking advantage.

Maria, 20, and Fernando, 18, both attended and participated in cross country and track and field at Rosemead. Both now attend Rio Hondo College.

Alejandre’s younger brother, Adan, 12, might follow in his siblings’ footsteps, just like Alejandre did, by taking up sports in high school.

But it wasn’t easy for Alejandre to join football.

In Mexican culture, it’s not customary for kids to join high school sports teams. Many are expected to return straight home from school to do house chores or work to help sustain the family.

Fortunately for Alejandre, that wasn’t the case. His mom was fine with him playing flag football in middle school – up until when Alejandre was tackled hard and his bottom teeth and gums were pushed back.

The dentist fixed his teeth, but there was no way Alejandre’s mom would now let him play high school football.

“I told him, `That’s what happened to you in middle school, imagine what can happen in high school,’ ” said Rosa, who is a homemaker.

Alejandre was saddened by the notion that he probably wasn’t going to get to join the Panthers team.

He pleaded with his mom to let him join. Alejandre’s father gave way, but he still needed his mom to cave in.

“I saw how sad he was,” said Rosa in Spanish. “He really wanted to be out there with his friends and play what he’s loved for such a long time.

“Finally I said `yes’ because I didn’t like seeing him around the house sad.”

Fortunately for Alejandre, he didn’t have to use Plan B.

“He said he was going to bring a group of friends with him from the team so they could convince me to let him play,” Rosa said with a laugh. “I couldn’t believe his friends wanted him that bad to play.”

They did want him to play that bad. And Alejandre has gone on to be a three- year varsity player, starting at quarterback the last two years.

He’s a key figure to the Panthers’ success this season, and he’ll be counted on when Rosemead visits Temple City on Friday night.

Alejandre’s dad, Adan, works the third shift driving and delivering products for Nature’s Produce. He works from 9 p.m. to 10 a.m.

Adan sleeps through the day and then heads to work, where he makes up the routes for the other drivers before he goes out on his.

But on Friday nights, Adan makes an extra effort to be at Alejandre’s games. And not only does he get to see his star quarterback play in the first half before he heads for work, he gets to see him from the sidelines, his face beaming with pride.

“It’s cool when you get to see your dad celebrating and giving you a high five,” Alejandre said.

When Alejandre was a kid, he didn’t have much. But what proved more important was having both parents there supporting him in whatever he was involved in – Alejandre also is the starting point guard for the Panthers basketball team.

He lives in a dangerous neighborhood where gangs seem to be nearly everywhere.

But staying in sports, Rosa says, is what helped Alejandre and his siblings stay away from developing bad habits.

There was also that one trip to Michoac n.

Alejandre was in sixth grade when his entire family spent a month in his parents’ native land. That trip proved to be special for two reasons: it was the first time Rosa had seen her mother in more than a decade, and it was when Alejandre put his life in perspective.

Before he left for the trip, Alejandre’s aunt gave him $40 for spending money. But where they stayed was so humbling that the experience of staying there opened his eyes as to how much they have in their home in El Monte.

How humbling? Well, turns out that $40 lasted the entire month Alejandre was in Mexico.

“I felt rich,” he said. “In Mexico that’s 400 pesos, and with that kind of money you can buy so much.”

So when people say Alejandre is as humble as they get, it’s because it’s true.

“You work hard and you dedicate yourself and the stars will align,” Rosemead coach Matt Koffler said. “He’s proven that with hard work, the results will pay off.”

One of Rosa’s biggest concerns was whether her kids would find their way after high school. After all, Rosa and Adan were schooled until the third and seventh grades, respectively.

But the stars are aligning. Alejandre, who has taken math as high as calculus and is taking physics, wants to attend Cal Poly Pomona and get involved in business management to open his own business or be involved in some way with sports.

The pain and troubling times Rosa and Adan went through 20 years ago were worth it because they now see their hard work paying off.

Alejandre is a product of that hard work. And he’s just getting started.

miguel.melendez@sgvn.com
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4485

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  • edgar

    nice to see an article about someone coming from my home town and playing football like me.