From SVdP Scholarship to the Arizona House of Representatives

Marcelino Quiñonez succeeded in SVdP's One At A Time scholarship program. Now he represents AZ District 27.

When Marcelino Quiñonez was in sixth grade, he would help his mom clean houses. One day, as they pulled up to a stoplight, Marcelino’s mom asked him a pointed question in Spanish — “¿A dónde vas a ir al colegio?” (“Where are you going to college?”)

That question set him on the higher education path and professional advancement that has now led Marcelino to the Arizona House of Representatives. In December, he was appointed to District 27’s vacant seat — his home district — after Democrat Diego Rodriguez resigned to run for state attorney general.

It’s a journey in which St. Vincent de Paul played a small, but significant role. The nonprofit’s One At A Time scholarship program helped support Marcelino financially as he studied at Arizona State University, earning both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theater.

Man smiling and looking into the camera

“It was a big deal for me,” says Marcelino, whose family immigrated to the States from Mexico to offer him and his siblings a chance at the American Dream. “I wrote Mr. Terry Wilson a letter thanking him for having started the scholarship program, and I concluded the letter by saying, ‘Some day, some way, I will repay the generosity that has been given to me today.’”

“Some day, some way, I will repay the generosity that has been given to me today.”

Marcelino is more than paying back that opportunity. He became a playwright, starred in multiple roles on stage, returned to SVdP and ASU to do youth and education outreach, and currently serves as a SVdP board member. Now he adds Arizona House Representative to the list.

“I’m grateful and honored by it,” says Marcelino, who made a run at the same seat in 2014 but fell short in the election.

“Growing up in my district I saw a lot of hardworking individuals doing their best to have a chance at better lives. I paid attention to their sacrifices and the things that they were trying to do for their children. I carry that with me when I come here.”

He’s making his shot count. Marcelino quickly introduced his first bill in February to improve Arizona’s student to counselor ratio— education support being one of his top priorities.

“Life has been very kind to me,” Marcelino says, “so I’ve always felt that I need to give those opportunities that have been given to me to others.”

“I’ve always felt that I need to give those opportunities that have been given to me to others.”

This spring he launched his campaign to maintain his seat, which is up for grabs this election cycle.

Marcelino also continues his connection with SVdP’s One At A Time scholarship program. Every week, he sends his mentees a Monday morning message of inspiration and firmly believes in the transformational power of the program. Since its founding, One At A Time has celebrated more than 100 graduates.

“That’s 100 lives being changed directly and then the lives that those 100 students will touch,” Marcelino says. “It continues to do what Robert Kennedy talked about, which is serving as a ripple of hope.”

Thanks to Marcelino, that ripple has made its way to the Arizona House of Representatives, where he can further its reach even more.

This article was originally published in the spring 2022 issue of Vincentian Connection.