Hard Work Pays Off
Determination and hard work helps CALS student graduate in four years with minimal debt
Julio Galvan-Zamora is not afraid of hard work. He began working at age 14, has completed three summers of internships and will graduate in four years from the University of Idaho, despite an illness that disrupted his entire sophomore year.
Hard Work Makes a Person
Galvan-Zamora’s parents migrated to the United States from Mexico in 1995 when his father was 17 and his mother was 19. They settled in Othello, Washington, and began work at an apple orchard, where his father eventually became an assistant manager. When he was 14, Galvan-Zamora joined his parents at the orchard to help with thinning, picking, pruning and cleanup.
“My dad always taught me that hard work makes a person,” he said. “At age 14 I had no experience working in the fields. I was working in extreme hot weather conditions and it actually taught me how to earn money and hard work. That’s probably the reason why I wanted to come into ag. I saw the field man coming into the orchard every two weeks and inspecting the trees.”
His experience working in the orchard led Galvan-Zamora to pursue a degree in crop science from U of I’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. He will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in May 2019.
Working Through Obstacles
Initially, Galvan-Zamora thought attending a community college followed by a state school in Washington would be the most financially sound option for higher education. His high school offered the AVID program (Advancement Via Individual Determination), which allowed him the opportunity to visit the U of I campus and meet with representatives from the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).
CAMP offered Galvan-Zamora an out-of-state tuition waiver and, combined with scholarships from the university, he discovered attending U of I was the most cost-effective option for him.
“My parents probably make as much money as one year of college for me,” he said. “For me, my priority was to help them out as much as I could financially and still go to college. I can’t help my family economically right now because I’m in school, but once I graduate I will support them financially.”
Galvan-Zamora excelled his freshman year — earning a 3.76 GPA — which led to more scholarships. He joined Omega Delta Phi, a multicultural service/social fraternity that focuses on graduating its members while giving back to the community. He was making strong progress toward his goal to graduate in four years with little debt and was making connections in his new community.
During the fall semester of his sophomore year Galvan-Zamora was infected with H. pylori, a type of bacteria that infects the digestive tract. The infection led to gastritis, ulcers and acid reflux. He spent most of his sophomore year overcoming the infection and associated side effects.
“I was taking like 20 pills a day for that and it caused kidney stones as well,” he said. “My parents told me to just medical withdraw and lose that semester or year and come back. But I had the illusion of finishing in four years. I did really bad that fall semester. Spring I did a little better but not to my full potential because I didn’t feel good and didn’t want to go to class.”
Galvan-Zamora was able to finish both semesters but his GPA dropped, resulting in lost scholarships.
“It was a little bump in the road but I made it through,” he said. “After I got sick I was just focused on getting good grades and finishing strong in four years.”
He has since recovered fully from the illness and will meet his goal as a result of hard work. Even with the lost scholarships, Galvan-Zamora will graduate with only $7,000 of student loan debt.
He credits not only his determination for pulling him through, but the mentorship of Victor Canales, a recruitment specialist in CAMP who served as an advisor to Omega Delta Phi during his sophomore year.
“He would be the person I would go to the most for help,” Galvan-Zamora said. “He helped me when I was sick and gave me advice. I was at the point of giving up because I couldn’t handle the stress of school and stress of getting sick.”
Gaining Work Experience
One of the scholarships Galvan-Zamora received was the Washington North Idaho Seed Association scholarship, which led to an internship offer to work for the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). He has worked with WSDA for the past three summers, most recently as lead corn inspector where he was able to supervise six other corn inspectors. At U of I, classes with professors like Jack Brown in the Department of Plant Sciences gave him knowledge that he could apply directly in his internship.
“Every semester I would learn something then apply it directly in the fields,” he said. “One of Jack Brown’s classes, we learned some diseases for corn and my job that summer was identifying pests and diseases for seed corn. I gained that knowledge then applied it to what I wanted to do. I learned a lot from those three past summers.”
Galvan-Zamora originally planned to become an apple inspector but his experiences at U of I and WSDA opened his eyes to more opportunities.
“When I came into college I wanted to work with apples because that was what I was used to,” he said. “I wasn’t exposed to any other crops. It opened me up to think about what other crops to learn from. The more I learn from more crops, the better it is for me.”
Eager to Work
Galvan-Zamora is interviewing for field inspector positions with companies around the Northwest and hopes to one day own his own agriculture operation, either in the United States or Mexico.
He is eager to focus his energy into his career.
“After graduation, I’m looking forward to work,” he said. “I know work is a lot of responsibility, but it’s not the same as school. It’s the same stress but in a different way. Every day is a new day.”
Article by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Published in April 2019