When the seniors at DeSales High School walk down the aisle and receive their diplomas on Saturday night, it will culminate Alvaro Campos Ontiveros’ — as well as the classmates he’s been with in the Walla Walla Catholic Schools system since his third-grade year — prep careers.

But it’s just the beginning of a new era for the driven Irish senior, who has juggled athletics and academics quite successfully as he’s focused on his goals.

And he’s well on his way to achieving all those goals.

Campos Ontiveros signed to continue his studies, with a goal of being an optometrist, as well as to be a kicker on the football team, at Whitworth University earlier this month.

But before that new part of his life begins in the fall, he has a few messages for the classmates, teachers and coaches that he’s experienced life with so far.

“I’d like to thank them for everything,” Campos Ontiveros said. “We grew as a family. Most of us (classmates) have been together since the fifth grade, we were there through thick and thin.

“I really enjoyed my time there,” he said. “I’m definitely going to miss it, but there’s more experiences and opportunities, as well.”

Indeed, Campos Ontiveros has taken advantage of his opportunities thus far in life.

He’s graduating with a 3.9 GPA, has been the president of DeSales’ National Honor Society, and has plans to become an optometrist.

Campos Ontiveros was a first-team all-conference kicker the past three football seasons with the Irish, and has also played school and club soccer, basketball, baseball and track and field during his time at Assumption Elementary and DeSales High schools.

“It’s been quite a ride,” he said, “and an enjoyable one, as well.”

As for any student-athlete, balancing academics and athletics is a challenge, one Campos Ontiveros met head-on, with the assistance of many.

“The biggest key for me is the support I’ve received from my teachers and coaches, if it wasn’t for them I couldn’t manage both,” he acknowledges. “There’s a burden of time when playing sports, and I’m not saying they (teachers) were lenient with homework, but sometimes when it involved sports they were willing to give me a little more time to complete assignments.

“And my coaches, they know I take academics seriously, and they understood if I had to complete a lab and let me be a little late for practice,” Campos Ontiveros said. “For both the coaches and teachers, I couldn’t have managed both as well as I did without them.”

And, he’s quick to point out, his family has been of utmost importance.

“Both of my parents (Alvaro Campos and Ana Campos Ontiveros) and my little brother (Alan, a fifth grader at Assumption), because we don’t have any extended family here in town, having the support from them has been crucial to my development,” he said. “They’re the reason why I always challenge myself a little more, probably, than I should, because I want to make them proud.”

Campos Ontiveros’ foray into football began its germination in the seventh grade, although it took some time.

“I’m of Hispanic culture, and was around soccer,” he said. “My dad is an incredible soccer player, he taught me to play for as long as I remember.”

Campos Ontiveros had the opportunity to play football in the seventh grade, “but I was afraid of football, so I played soccer.

“The next year, I decided to try out for football in my eighth-grade year,” he said. “My coaches were very supportive of me. I was still shy, and scared, I didn’t know any of the rules. It seemed a very different sport than soccer.”

He played wide receiver and kicker that first year.

“I kept going to practice everyday, and their (coaches’) enthusiasm slowly started taking a place in my heart,” Campos Ontiveros said. 

He tried out again his freshman year, and his road to a collegiate career had begun.

“I enjoyed it very much, and decided to stick with it,” he said.

Campos Ontiveros’ kicking included punting, kickoffs and field goals for the Irish.

His longest field goal was a 40-yarder at Manson that’s still talked about.

He caught the eye of Whitworth coaches, and signed with the Division III program on May 9.

“I’m honored to be moving on to college playing football,” Campos Ontiveros said.

He’s not quite sure which area of kicking he’ll end up with at Whitworth.

“The coaches have been all really supportive of me,” Campos Ontiveros said. “They really believe in me.”

There will be three kickers vying for each of the kicking spots.

“Other than that, I’m not entirely sure (where he’ll end up playing). It comes down to who wants it more, and who handles it well under pressure.”

Campos Ontiveros is planning on majoring in business or biochemistry, and then continuing his studies to become an optometrist.

Optometry is a profession he’s had in his sights since eighth grade, while waiting for an eye exam at Valley Vision.

“It was almost like a light bulb went on above my head,” he said, “and I’ve been intrigued with the field of optometry since.”

His job-shadowing experience at Valley Vision over spring break confirmed his interest.

“That reinforced my desire to pursue that career,” Campos Ontiveros said.

Meanwhile, graduation at DeSales is center stage, and he has messages for classmates and underclassmen alike.

“The biggest thing I’d like to tell them is, thank you!” Campos Ontiveros said. “It’s simple, but it has a deeper meaning than two words. Everybody has impacted me in a positive way, and allowed me to chase my dreams and strive for greatness. Thanks for playing a part in my life, without them and the experiences I’ve lived with those people, I would not be here today.”

And for the younger Irish classmates continuing at DeSales?

“I’d tell them to continue to chase their wildest dreams, because, honestly, I didn’t believe I’d be going to college playing football,” he said. “But I believe in supporting everybody with a dream. If they’re willing to put in the work, they can achieve their goals.”

Bret Rankin graduated from Western Washington University, and after reporting and editing at several newspapers in western Washington, he joined the Union-Bulletin in 1999 as a sports reporter/copy editor. He has been sports editor since 2010.

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