Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
After graduating from Silver High School in 1993, Jackie Zamora enrolled in, but soon dropped out of, two colleges.
The native of Peru had powered through a language barrier in high school, but it caught up with her at the university level. She has since overcome that barrier.
On Saturday, Zamora, a 44-year-old mother of four, walked across the stage and accepted a diploma signifying her second master’s degree from the University of New Mexico.
“When I reflect back on those days, I think I needed to go through (dropping out of college) in order to really want to make a change in my life,” Zamora said in an interview at HB Construction, where she is a project coordinator. “I knew that if I wanted to be successful, I had to excel in language.”
Zamora was one of nearly 4,000 scholars who earned a degree from UNM this semester. They range from 314 students who completed an associate degree to 79 new doctors from the School of Medicine, according to university documents.
Her latest master’s degree is in construction management.
Zamora moved to Silver City when she was 15. Her father, a mechanical engineer for a mining company in South America, had wanted his daughters to learn English and made arrangements for them to study here on student visas.
Zamora and her sister lived with a host family in southern New Mexico while in high school.
After she dropped out of Western New Mexico University and then UNM, Zamora started working at University of New Mexico Hospital as a facilitator for people with disabilities.
She worked in the field for about 17 years. During that time, Zamora got married and started a family, along with her own business, El Portal Employment Services, which linked people with disabilities to employment.
It was through her work with clients with disabilities that Zamora greatly improved her English skills. She returned to UNM as a part-time student and took a class or two a semester, ultimately earning her bachelor’s degree in 2014.
“Once I got the swing of things, it was like a faucet I couldn’t turn off,” she said.
In 2015, Zamora entered a master’s program in the School of Architecture and Planning, earning her first master’s degree in 2017. While working for a local architecture firm, she became interested in the construction side of building. She was one of 12 students who this spring completed a master’s degree in construction management, which is in UNM’s School of Engineering.
She married her husband, Jonathan Zamora, at age 21. The two have four children together: a 12-year-old, 9-year-old twins and a 5-year-old. She became a United States citizen last year.
Jackie Zamora may be a common face, or voice, for those who like Latin music. She sings in five bands in the Albuquerque area, including Calle 66 and Baracutanga.
Husband Jonathan said his wife’s pursuit of higher education has made her a great role model for their children and other mothers.
For years Zamora has worked most days, taken care of her family and studied late into the night when the children were asleep, he said.
“I think she is a role model for all mothers who had children young and felt like they could never get back into school,” Jonathan said. “She’s proof that women can have children, start a family and go back to school.”