By Karina Zamora (B.A., ’23)
First-Generation Success After Struggle
My journey at SF State has been wilder than anything I could have thought of, especially as I transferred in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that huge challenge, I’ve not only thrived as a student — I’m a senior double-majoring in Criminal Justice and Philosophy — I also have the pleasure of serving as the president of Associated Students, SF State’s official student body government.
In 2017, I enrolled at a community college in Los Angeles, the first in my family to go to college. As I prepared to transfer to SF State, I felt an indescribable sense of excitement. However, that changed when universities moved to a fully remote modality due to the pandemic. The excitement of moving to a new city and now being at a university was suddenly gone. But I adjusted — and if I hadn’t, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today. Instead of letting myself get discouraged, I promised myself that I would take full advantage of the time I will have at SF State by being involved in the campus community.
Fast forward to classes slowly making an in-person return. I joined the SF State campus community in the fall of 2021. As soon as I moved to the city and classes began, I got a job on campus as a brand ambassador at the Mashouf Wellness Center. This helped me connect with students, as I would be at open house and orientation events. I also used this to experience events I wouldn’t have otherwise and as opportunities to make events memorable for future Gators.
But no experience at SF State has impacted me quite as much as serving as a representative for Associated Students. I thank my forever friend, Joshua Ochoa, for throwing me into this. I met Joshua my first semester (back in 2020) through IDEAS, a student organization advocating for undocumented students and students from mixed-status families. Joshua told me he’d be running for president and had some positions he thought I’d be great for. He empowered me to apply for director of government and community relations. Despite not having experience in things like this, I decided to give it a shot. I ended up winning the spring 2021 election and serving in that role until I was appointed to serve as the vice president of external affairs the following semester. I then thought of running for VP of external affairs the following election because I was passionate about the work I did. But Joshua again empowered me to try for a new position — president. I ran for the position and won.
This whole experience has allowed me to explore my passions and realize that my future is in policy and advocacy. As unexpected and sometimes challenging as this experience has been, I will forever be grateful, as it helped me uncover who I am as a young professional and what fields I would truly be happy in.
My Gator experience has been one big journey of self-discovery, leaving my comfort zone and learning to surround myself with people who will encourage my growth. While I haven’t been here long, I can wholeheartedly say I made the most of my time at SF State.
Photo by Paul Asper