Felipe Restrepo assumed his first official leadership role at 12 years old, coaching his brother’s soccer team. The reward of guiding others led him to coach soccer throughout his undergraduate days, graduate school, and his PhD. Mentors encouraged him to become a professor, but he couldn’t give up on the sport and since 2008 has been leading the Chico State men’s soccer team. He cares about the team’s success off the pitch as much as on it. In his recent leadership course through the Student Success Center, Restrepo inspired first-generation and historically underserved students to reimagine what they are capable of. Through his background in critical ethnography and multicultural education, he worked with students who have struggled with adjusting to college for a variety of reasons and gives them focus, urging them to look at their identity and how it shapes who they are while also having the courage to be a better version of themselves. He also pushes them to prepare for their careers, to ensure that they are destined for success whether they make it as professional athletes or opt to enter the job market.

Restrepo Fact #1:
He never set out to coach soccer as a profession, but he loved it so much he thought, “Why can’t I teach and coach?”

Why is this work important to you?

I am focused on the success of my students within their families, communities, and careers. I am aware of my responsibilities as an educator and how I can support my students’ search for a better life as they become the best humans they can be.

Restrepo Fact #2:
A first-generation college student, he is dedicated to assisting students of color find success on campus—he has helped over 70 students graduate in his 14 years of coaching.

What makes this work meaningful?

Over time, the big wins my students have had have become mine. I know that at the end of the day, our work together can make our lives and the lives of those around us better. There is nothing more meaningful than that.

Restrepo Fact #3:
He is the oldest of three brothers and credits his family for showing him how to be part of a team.

What’s the greatest success story you have been a part of?

I have been fortunate to work in education and athletics for a long time, and have had the privilege to work with so many incredible people and families. It’s very difficult to pick one, but I couldn’t be prouder of the leaders we have groomed in our class and athletic program. They are focused on positive outcomes, helping others, and making an impact on the world around them. That makes me smile.

What’s your greatest takeaway lesson you hope to give students?

Good question. I have many, but the one that sticks out to me at the moment is to love each other. Good things will happen when we do that.

Restrepo holds a bachelor’s degree in human development and a PhD in social organization and educational policy from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree in multicultural education from California State University, Monterey Bay. He is in his 14th year as Chico State’s head men’s soccer coach.