Brian Zamora, a Chicanx Studies major at Los Angeles Mission College, was named a recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.
Zamora, who graduated with honors on Tuesday, June 4, with a 3.9 grade point average, will receive up to $40,000 per year (for up to three years) to help pay for tuition, room and board, books, and other fees.
“This scholarship is a blessing,” Zamora said. “We always prayed for it and when it came, it was a realization of all (my) hard work.”
Zamora grew up in Sylmar. His dad works as a day laborer in construction.
“My dad has been an inspiration. He used to take me to work with him …. That gave me my work ethic,” Zamora said. “I hated going with him. I would tell him how tired I was, and his response would be ‘it’s either the shovel or the pencil.’”
He credited his mom with constantly encouraging him and challenging him.
“There’s times I don’t feel motivated … She reminds me of how hard I’ve worked. She made an effort to get me into the best schools and provided an atmosphere of learning at home.”
News of the scholarship came at just the right time. Zamora said his family, which includes two younger brothers, was going through a difficult situation at home.
“When we found out, we all started crying. We knew the universe had repaid us.”
Zamora hasn’t decided what school he will attend in the fall, but he is leaning heavily toward UCLA. He was also accepted at UC Berkeley.
“They (UCLA) have the undergraduate research opportunities in Education … (the) Chicano Studies Research Center … And I’ll have a chance to sit in on classes taught by Professor Daniel Solorzano,” Zamora said.
“We couldn’t be happier for Brian,” Mission College President Dr. Monte Perez said. “This is a very prestigious scholarship, and we know how much he deserves it. From the moment he stepped on campus, he’s been involved in EOPS and the Center for Community College Partnerships at UCLA. It’s a fabulous award for a dedicated and hard-working student.”
Zamora is passionate about Ethnic Studies and believes that individuals must learn about their own history to build self-worth, which then leads to achievement.
“Ethnic Studies helps with self-actualization … It’s a transformation of the individual,” Zamora said.
He quoted Philippines national hero and martyr, Dr. Jose Rizal, a nationalist during the Spanish colonial period. “No history, no self. Know history, know self.”
After college, Zamora plans to work in urban education and education policy.
“I’m passionate about education and would love to teach,” Zamora said. “I also want to create and implement changes through legislation.”
One of the first things he would do is expand ethnic studies statewide.
“When I graduated from Granada (Hills Charter High), it was important for me to develop an identity,” Zamora said.
He said Ethnic Studies exposes students to the history of oppression and provides students with the ability to overcome obstacles despite inequalities.
“I am very proud of Brian and I’m glad to see that he has received this award,” said Chicanx Studies Professor Jose Maldonado. “He is an excellent representation of the kind of student we seek to graduate from our program … Intelligent, critical, and with a commitment and a passion for learning and for constructive change that goes beyond the classroom.”
Zamora credited Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) with helping him overcome some of his own obstacles. EOPS helped him transition into college life and provided social and financial support.
As a student worker within the program, he found solidarity with many of the students, including single mothers, students of color, and first-generation college students.
“It has been a pleasure having Brian as a student and as a student worker in the EOPS program,” said Ludi Villegas-Vidal, Dean of Student Services. “He demonstrated authentic concern for helping other students.”
She said Brian is goal-oriented, intelligent, and dedicated.
“I believe that his vision and tenacity have helped him succeed. He is very passionate about his future and extremely giving to others and appreciative of the opportunities that have been given to him,” Villegas-Vidal said.
Zamora insists that his scholarship and education are an opportunity for him and the entire community.
“My schooling isn’t just for me, it’s for the entire village. The purpose is to open the door for the rest of my community.”
“With an education, it’s about uplifting others as well. That scholarship allows me to do that. I can manifest my goals now.”