From catering to starring in the Husky 100

In her first year at the University of Washington Bothell, Gloria Gonzalez-Zapata recalls working about 50 hours a week at four jobs: one job as a waitress and three with catering companies. In fact, one of the caterers provided the fare at the Husky 100 reception on the UW campus in Seattle.

Gloria Gonzalez-Zapata

While working at that event, Gonzalez-Zapata was noticed by Natalia Dyba, the UW Bothell director of global initiatives. “She recognized me and said, ‘You know, one day you can be up here.’”

Dyba was correct. Gonzalez-Zapata is now one of the Husky 100 — students who are recognized for making the most of their UW experience.

“I was working, watching everyone celebrating,” Gonzalez-Zapata said, “And now I’m here.”

Hard work pays off

Applying her work ethic to academics, Gonzalez-Zapata graduated in June, completing two degrees in three years. She majored in Law, Economics & Public Policy and in Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, both in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences.

During her time at UW Bothell, Gonzalez-Zapata made three study abroad trips: to India, to Italy and another one to Spain and France. She also found a new job on campus with Commuter Services, at first writing citations and then working in the office to help implement the new permit system.

Gonzalez-Zapata is now considering graduate school and would love a career creating policies for a “better environment for our country and the low income and people of color — those underserved communities.”

It wasn’t exactly the plan at the start.

Commitment to community

“When I began college, it was pretty straightforward. I just wanted to get my degree and go,” Gonzalez-Zapata said. “Once I was here a little longer, I wanted more than the degree. I wanted the experience to create community on campus.”

Gonzalez-Zapata and a friend helped start a chapter of Her Campus, an online magazine targeted at college women. They organized events, such as pumpkin carving at Halloween. With another friend, Gonzalez-Zapata started an informal healing circle for women of color, which received a grant from T-Mobile.

“There are a lot of students who will fight for each other, who want to celebrate each other and create a welcoming community,” she said.

An inspiration to others

Coming from a low-income immigrant family of Mexican and Panamanian heritage, Gonzalez-Zapata said she is glad to stand as an example to others who may be watching her now.

“I hope I can inspire students like me, who can see themselves in my shoes.”

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