When he was growing up and trying to find his path in life, Edwin Salazar never envisioned reaching his current destination. Work, not college, is what he thought it would be after graduating from high school.
“Luckily,” the 2013 Moline graduate said, “an opportunity came. I took advantage.”
Soccer presented Salazar with an avenue to college. Motivated to make the most of his shot, he earned an associate’s degree from Lincoln College in May. Salazar parlayed that into continuing both his academic and athletic careers at McKendree.
In each aspect, he is thriving.
“I’m pretty proud of myself,” Salazar said.
There is reason to hold his head high.
Admitting he “didn’t care much” about his grades in high school, the grade-point average reflected that. Salazar’s focus remained on soccer throughout this time, never fully grasping the sport could continue his education.
As he got older, the perspective change. Seeing his mom struggle with money forced him to re-evaluate his thoughts on education.
“My mom always told me school was important,” Salazar said. “At first, I didn’t believe it. Now I know it. Education takes you far in life.”
Given a shot to play at Lincoln College for two seasons, Salazar seized the moment. His play on the field improved, providing him the chance to join a Division II program. Salazar chose McKendree, a Great Lakes Valley Conference member in Lebanon.
On his way to reaching the suburban St. Louis school, he also earned his associate’s degree. The grade-point average at Lincoln reached the 3.0 threshold.
“I wanted to continue my education,” Salazar said.
Athletics provided that chance. In the classroom, he is excelling. On the pitch, he is finding a groove.
Salazar is one of 11 players who has appeared in all 13 matches for the Bearcats this season. The junior midfielder has made five starts and tallied three shots. All but two of McKendree’s matches this season have been decided by one goal.
“I’m getting better and learning new things,” Salazar said. “I’m learning how to control the ball and move it. I’m learning how to do the little things right.”
Five out of the previous eight matches featured Salazar in the starting lineup.
“The competition is a whole different level from Lincoln and Moline, but I love it,” Salazar said. “I’m competitive.”
The fire is evident on the academic side, too.
Any time spent away from soccer is geared toward his studies. Salazar said he lives in the library, being “there from 6 to midnight” during the week. All his effort is put to completing his criminal justice degree with a minor in physiology.
Upon graduation, he may complete his master’s degree. The goal is becoming a probation officer.
“I’m one of the first ones in my family to leave home and go to college,” Salazar said. “To go far, you have to get an education. … Just because you grow up with nothing doesn’t mean you’ll be nothing. I want to be something.”
Salazar thinks about the people who put him in this place — his mother, siblings, coaches and Moline teacher Wendy Pilichowski — and realizes everyone gave him direction to reach college. He does not want to let them down. Being a student-athlete is something that creates pride.
Becoming a college graduate is the next step.
Picture bottom: Salazar playing for MHS in 2013 Picture by Todd Welvaert courtesy of The Dispatch
Picture Top: McKendree junior midfielder and 2013 Moline graduate Edwin Salazar, right, is thriving. Salazar, a junior-college transfer, has appeared in all 13 matches this season and is working toward his degree.
McKendree University Sports Information