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Christian Zamarrón of Rochelle, Ill., studied industrial and labor relations; minored in Latino studies; inequality studies; law and society
Main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?
Being a leader of el Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA): a student organization that fights against and raises awareness of issues that affect brown and immigrant communities. Being a part of MEChA and the Cornell Organization for Labor Action has allowed me to remain true to what I came to Cornell for - to advocate and fight for the immigrant, Latino and working people.
While at Cornell, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?
That MEChA worked so hard to get the support of President David Skorton for the DREAM Act, which in turn led other university presidents to advocate for it. I am also very proud that I have excelled academically, held meaningful research jobs with Kate Bronfenbrenner and Sofia Villenas, been an activist for immigrant and Chicano communities and mentored my siblings and other Latinos who want to make it to college, all while fighting in the courts against detectives and lawyers who are trying to incarcerate my father for a crime he did not commit.
Did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?
My increase in self-awareness and understanding of the fundamental inequalities and injustices of our society intensified my belief in the importance of fighting for social justice, especially through the labor movement and the immigrant rights movement, during my time at Cornell. I also gained a heightened awareness of the institutional racism that survives to this day and the importance of recognizing and fighting against it.
What are your plans for next year; where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I have accepted a job as a labor organizer for public service workers within SEIU Local 521, based out of Santa Cruz, Calif., mentoring and developing leaders, working on political campaigns, fighting against the right wing attacks on public sector workers, and organizing and doing direct actions. Looking further into the future, I hope to be an immigration/labor/civil rights lawyer working on impact litigation and class action lawsuits on behalf of the Latino community.
Who or what at Cornell influenced your Cornell education the most?
I am the first son of hard-working immigrants from Mexico who have worked as ESL teachers, ballet folklorico instructors, factory workers and owners of a small jewelry store. I have worked as a union organizer in Missouri, as a detasseler and supervisor in the cornfields of Illinois and as a temporary employee pulling 12 hour shifts, packing 55-pound calcium-powder bags at a factory in my small, rural town surrounded by cornfields.
What Cornell-related scholarships/special financial benefits did you receive?
Thanks to the many scholarships I received, my world-class education here was free. Without financial aid, attending Cornell would have been almost inconceivable. As a Cornell Tradition fellow, I was able to take part in eye-opening service-learning trips in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru. Funding from Tradition and the Office of Minority and Educational Affairs allowed me to perform research work that has been very important to my Cornell experience, academically and financially. Finally, the Edward Gray Memorial Award allowed me to take a credit internship in Mexico City and dedicate a semester to advancing worker's rights as a strategic researcher with the Solidarity Center.
What Cornell memory do you treasure the most?
Successfully leading MEChA in fundraising, planning and hosting the national East Coast Chicano Student Forum Conference: 'The State of La Raza: Latinos/as in Higher Education in Anti-Immigrant America.'