Written by Lucero Benitez, COSS Communications Specialist

In one year, Maria Zamora spent over 1,000 hours volunteering with organizations in the Central Valley. What started off as a distraction for her and a way to network, turned into a passion she will continue to practice.

Three years ago, Zamora enrolled at Fresno State hoping to major in Criminology and work in Law Enforcement. However, Zamora’s Dreamer status prohibits her from working as a Law Enforcement officer so she decided she wouldn’t let her immigration status discourage her. Instead, she found a different way to help people in need.

“I wanted something to make myself stand out from other students and give back to my community,” said Zamora.

After researching volunteer opportunities, Zamora found one with the Fresno Police Chaplain, which allowed her to serve Fresno residents during their worst times. She also served as a peer mentor for Project Stealth where she mentored a runaway juvenile and provided support to her mentee by being present, genuine, respectful, and honest.

This spring, she is volunteering with the State Prison Program “Inside Garden,” a program designed to help inmates value nature with horticulture and mindfulness related skills. Zamora thrives when helping others.

“She is a fighter. She is a leader. She does great things for our community. She exemplifies what it means to be a Fresno State Bulldog and that is by giving back to the community,” said College of Social Sciences Advisor Joseph Escoto.

For that reason, Escoto nominated Zamora to receive the Fresno State Student Volunteer of the Year Award. An award that honors a student who has made a difference in the community through exceptional gifts of their time and talent. Zamora was presented with the award earlier this month.

“I felt achieved and accomplished that I did something. I volunteer because the happiness they experience makes me happy,” Zamora said.

The young student has done more than volunteer her time. During the 2018 fall semester, Zamora realized homeless teens need all the support and she made it her mission to help them. Winter in the Central Valley can be very cold for the homeless, so she decided winter was a good season to host a drive-in partnership with the Fresno Youth Sanctuary (FYS). Zamora learned socks were the most needed item, yet the most overlooked and least donated. She gathered a team of students to help her with her social media marketing video and created flyers. Her team also tabled outside and in the end, collected over 380 pair of socks.

Other volunteer work includes spending her time at the Friant Interactive Nature Site, Valley Animal Center, Support the Blue Run, Project Stealth, Inside Garden Project, and a college-wide clothing drive. Hundreds of hours that motivated her to continue on her mission.

Zamora has not let her Dreamer status stop her from pursuing a career in Criminology. She has decided to focus on Forensic Behavioral Science and says her volunteer work helps her fulfill her personal goal of working with Law Enforcement to serve the community.

“Anything you want to do can be achievable and there’s always loopholes to everything,” said Zamora.

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