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Division of Student Affairs

Former CAMP student lands prestigious Gilman International Scholarship

Department: Division of Student Affairs


Alma Zamago Alma Zamago vividly remembers the evening Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. It was her freshman year at Washington State University and she was sitting in her residence hall room when news of Trump’s victory invoked loud cheers from some students across the hallway.

As a Latina whose father has worked 20 years working in apple and cherry orchards outside of Pasco, Wash., and whose mother cleans houses, Zamago feared how Trump’s policies would impact herself, her family, and her community. She recalled feeling very lonely and afraid.

Alma relied heavily on her adopted family, the students and staff in WSU’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), to help deal with her anxiety following the election.

“CAMP gave me a sense of security and comfort knowing there are other students with similar backgrounds that felt as I did, and we were united in supporting one another,” she said.

CAMP helps students from migrant and seasonal farmworkers backgrounds to successfully transition and complete their first academic year of college. It provides outreach and recruitment, academic support, personal and career counseling, academic advising, financial aid and follow-up services to 50 students each year.

Zamago aspires to be an English teacher or a translator in Japan. As a student majoring in Japanese, she knew studying abroad in Japan would be an opportunity to become more fluent in the language and familiar with the culture. But with controversy swirling the nation in regards to President Trump’s proposed travel ban, Alma was afraid to travel overseas.

It wasn’t until an advisor in WSU’s International Programs encouraged her to not let what’s happening in the world prevent her from chasing her dreams. She decided to apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship which would give her the opportunity to study in Japan she so much desired. The Gilman Scholarship is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.

Alma was on a break during her summer job packing fruit and vegetables at the Pasco Food Processing Plant when she received the email notifying her she had secured a Gilman Scholarship. She will spend the entire academic year studying at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka.

“I’m very excited, but also nervous,” Zamago said the day before leaving for Japan. “By applying for this scholarship, it was the first time that I did something for myself and I’m excited to now be pursuing my dreams.”

As part of the Gilman Scholarship, Alma will conduct two community service projects—one in Japan and the other when she returns to campus next year. In Japan she aims to educate the Japanese people about her Latina culture explaining that when they think of Americans, it typically conjures up images of light-skinned, blonde people. She wants them to know the American population includes many races and ethnicities.

Her WSU project will focus on encouraging CAMP students to apply for prestigious scholarships like the Gilman and study abroad.

“By sharing my experiences, I want to give them hope and maybe a push to do something great,” she said. “They shouldn’t let anything stop them.”

CAMP Academic Coordinator and Retention Specialist Ray Acuña-Luna is excited for her return exclaiming that she will be an excellent role model for students.

“I am impressed by her level of preparation and drive to achieve her goals,” he said.  “She had the initiative to look beyond the academics and engaged in opportunities for her overall development.”