Socorro graduate Armijo using experience to give back

Socorro graduate and standout student-athlete Dez Armijo returned home to teach, coach and give back to the community. 

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Dez Armijo is Socorro High School graduate who excelled as a three-sport athlete. She played soccer at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado and eventally returned to Socorro to help coach the Lady Warriors soccer and track teams. She is currently in the process of applying to graduate school.

Dez, what are you doing now?

So right now I'm working on my prereqs to get into grad school for occupational therapy. And I'm also a server at Yo Mama's.

We've talked about this, so here comes to the awkward part. Occupational therapy, sports have always been a huge part of your life. Tell us why you want to go into OT.

So recently it switched from being physical therapy, PT to OT just because I when I was working in the schools and teaching, I loved that aspect of things. I love being around the kids. And I also worked with the COTA there Jose he was an OT that was working with the kids at Cottonwood and he really just inspired me to want to get into that field. I liked him work one on one with some of our kids and it really just kind of made me want to, to go that route.

So is it a specific age group? Like, do you want to do, I mean, would you consider being a trainer for like young kids, high school, and college level? Do you just want to do the occupational therapy for really anybody?

That's a cool part about being an exercise science major is you can do really a wide spectrum of things available to you in that aspect. So I would, yeah, I would consider being a trainer. I'm actually thinking about that right now. I love working. I love coaching as well, so it's not just the younger kids that I like working with. I love coaching the high school kids. Experience with soccer and track has really been enjoyable for me. So I just I think that that's an option as well. I think I might take on that training role maybe while I'm going to school or maybe sticking with it as I become a therapist. I really don't know.

Where are you taking classes right now?

Right now I'm taking my prereqs through CNM. And I have a couple more to go before starting the application process.

So where are you considering applying for grad school, UNM?

I'll apply to UNM and then I also really wanted to try to get into other Texas Women in Denton or Baylor.

Yeah, Baylor would be awesome. There's a beautiful place.

It would be so cool.

That entire corridor like Austin and New Braunfels and Shiner, it's just all one big city, you know what I mean? And you wouldn't be too far away from home?

Texas is calling my name for some reason.

It's kind of cool because you're kind of in the same boat as me. I went to college so that I could be a sports reporter, and not a lot of people get to say that, Hey, I went to college for a very specific thing and I'm doing that specific thing with my career. Is it kind of nice knowing that really everything you've done in your life, being an athlete, being a good student and then going to college for what you went to college for, that's all coming to fruition for you? Is that kind of the plan? And is that exciting for you?

Yeah, it's a blessing really. Like you said, sports and athletics and just movement in general has always been a huge part of my life. So it was only natural to me to, to go that route with exercise science, but yeah, it was just being back in Socorro and being able to coach and teach PE that's a huge blessing because now I get to use my I got to use my degree right off the bat, and I'm still striving for more. I'm still on that same route.

Your decision to come back to Socorro, what played the most into that?

So first and foremost, probably my little brothers. As you know, I have two younger brothers Jordan and Marcus that are still in high school. And so family is number one in my life. So that played a really big role. The second thing that came along with that is I just really wanted to come back to my community. I love Socorro. And I was eager to get back in and get into a role that allowed me to help as many youth of the community as possible. Just because I got out and I saw a little bit of the world and I want that for everyone else.

So the stars again, kind of aligned for you. You get to come back, you get to teach you get to coach. What has coaching been like for you?

It's been very rewarding. It's been exciting. It's been eye opening. I've learned a lot about myself in the process of teaching and coaching and yeah, I just love, I love the atmosphere. I love being around the team. I love being at practice. I love the games. The games are my favorite. I mean, almost every athlete's favorite part is competing and that atmosphere to me is something very familiar, but something I definitely never want to give up.

Obviously we have to give shout outs to Mitch and Matt Carrejo, which I know were a big part of what allowed you to be successful, really on and off the field.

They remember me when I was little. I mean, I don’t know probably like first grade. I remember going to a summer soccer camp and from that point on, they just, they believed in me since then. They saw my potential and then as I got to middle school, I was going to the high school practices over the summer. They always welcomed me and they always wanted to be there and they always encouraged me. And then when I got to high school and they were coaching me I me, they just believed in me a hundred percent. Back in high school, I struggled with confidence especially on the field and they really just kept it positive for me, encouraging me. They believe in me. And so that really played a big role in it because it was at the very beginning that I needed some people like that along with my family. Of course, my dad was a big role in that too. But yeah, they really helped lay down that foundation for me, that allowed me to go so far.

Let's talk about Mike Olguin. You had really, really kind words in regard how he handles himself, how he coaches. What do you like about coaching alongside him?

So he's a very detail-oriented person. So he will visualize, he will think about every single possible situation that could go down. And so that I believe gave him an advantage over other coaches, because if scenario A happens, then he'd have solution A for it. If scenario B happened, he'd have solution B for it. And he didn't really have to think twice about that. Cause he already went over it in his mind. He cares a lot about the girls and he knows how hard to push them in order to allow them to get so far. The conditioning aspect was a big thing. And the girls are probably not going to like me for saying that. They were the, probably the team that was in top shape and one of the fittest teams in the state. And that I believe was all due to the fact that we conditioned so much at the beginning and didn’t let our foot off the gas throughout the season. So yeah, I think Mike, I respect Mike and the way that he thinks about things how much he cares and just the amount of time he puts into it.

I know Socorro women's soccer has always been a good program for many, many years. But really since you were in eighth grade, so what, maybe like 2008, 2009 it's been kind of this 11, 12 year journey to see that program go from, yeah, we know we're going to win district and make state but now it's, Hey, we expect to be in the state championship. What's it like seeing that program come full circle for you?

It's really just amazing to see because when I was in high school, I remember a season where we were playing with a player down for several games. So just to see it grow from playing a player down for several games in the season to having a full roster on JV, that makes my heart so happy. Because that means that younger girls are playing soccer in Socorro and they're saying, hey, that looks fun, I want to play. That just means that hopefully the program will continue to grow. And yeah, that is amazing to see just how much growth we've seen in the past 10, 12 years. And since I was in eighth grade to now,, that makes me very, very happy.

I don't know how to put this without sounding a little negative, but Socorro being a small town. I don't know if a lot of kids in middle and high school think they have an opportunity to go out and do other things, get into college, go play a sport if they want to. You've been through the gamut, you know what I mean? Your life is pretty much come full circle. Just in terms of you went to college, got a degree, and came back now you're doing what you love. What do you tell your girls on the team now? How do you mentor them into getting them to believe that, Hey, there's more out there for you, but Socorro is not that bad, but you can get out of here if you want.

I mean, what I say is Socorro will always be our home. It's a beautiful place. It's where our families are from. It’s where our culture is and it's made us who we are. So, there should always be a special place in your heart for Socorro. But there is a huge world out there. And I know there's some fear with leaving and being scared to change or what the possibilities of what could happen if I do leave Socorro. But I think that it could benefit you in a very, very special way.

Are there opportunities here that maybe people don't seek out as much as they should?

So, what I say to that is you don't have to, you really don't have to leave. There are opportunities here. It's really up to you honestly. I left and I loved it and I don't regret leaving because I was able to leave and learn new things. When I went in to the world and then actually bring that back, bring back that new way of thinking or just those new things that I learned into Socorro to hopefully help and grow the community. But if you don't want to leave that's okay too, because like you said, we have New Mexico Tech. We have the vocational schools like CNM that are just an hour away, and those are good opportunities as well.

You don't have to go out and travel the world or do all these crazy things. It's really what your definition of success is and what makes you happy. I chose what made me happy and now what's making me happy is being back in Socorro. But I do encourage my girls to not be afraid of trying, at least, especially if they do love the sport of soccer or basketball or track, don't be afraid of trying, and reach out to those coaches. See what kind of response you get. Because we have so much talent in Socorro and I think that some players do want to keep playing their sports, and I think that it doesn't hurt to try.

You work out a lot, so not necessarily in terms of just athletics, what do you love so much just about movement?

Oh, that's a good question. I think what I love about movement is the fact that it's my own personal, oh, how do I say, antidepressant, my own personal pain reliever. I was just talking with a friend about this. Sometimes I'll be like, nah, my body's aching, my body hurts. I'm about to take an 800 milligram ibuprofen. But then I'm like, wait a sec, let me stretch for 10 minutes. And after those 10 minutes, my mood is better. My body doesn't hurt. And so I think when I was younger, it was more about competition and it was more about, okay, let me see how fast and strong I can make my body. But now it's a lifestyle. And I think it's just necessary to my mental health and just to my overall well-being. And that's what I love about movement because it not only affects our body, but it greatly affects our minds as well.

How are you able to translate that theory, your way of life, into your students and your players?

So the thing I like about it, like when I was teaching at Cottonwood, I taught a mindfulness class. And so that was really cool to see some of the middle schoolers actually catch on to it and they started implementing it into their daily lives. And I thought helping them as far as helping them regulate their own emotions and being able to go through life and not be scared of their own emotions basically. So thank you to Cottonwood and Kim Schaffer, even letting me incorporate that elective. That curriculum, that was very important. And she saw that as well. And then as far as soccer and track go Mike was big on visualization and he saw how big, or he saw how passionate I was about it.

So he let me do yoga with the girls and he let me do some guided meditation with the team as well. And so that's how I incorporated it into soccer. Then with track Jameson and Johnson, they also saw it too. So that was really cool that they were all just super open to it. We would do yoga, I don't know, one Friday a month or every other Friday. I'd have the whole team out stretching with me. And so I thought that was really cool. And I know that I've accomplished that with the football team too. Coach Damien Ocampo, He calls it a visualization that he's going through with them. He's going through a guided meditation with them before games. And, and so I think more and more we're all starting to implement that because we see how important it is. Not just with athletes, but it's for everybody.

I know you're happy being back here, but are you starting to look forward to your next adventure in getting into grad school, whether it be just up the road or a little farther away in Texas?

Yeah, I am looking forward to it. Like I was saying earlier, change is scary. So I'm processing that right now, but I'm always striving to be better. And this is what I think will help me be better. So I have to be open to that change and learning to be instead of scared, I'm learning to be excited about it.