Back when college was barely a whisper in the minds of her fellow middle-school classmates, Sophia Zamorano ’14 was hanging out with her older sisters in the Turner Hall dorms, tagging along to their university classes, and strolling the grounds of Whittier College like it was her second home.
Eight years later, Sophia crossed the commencement stage on Friday and the Zamorano family added a third daughter to their growing Poet family.
“I was very proud to see how seriously [Sophia] took her Whittier College education,” says big sister Crystal Zamorano ’06. “I just feel so proud altogether knowing that both my sisters and I are Whittier College graduates; it's something that we share that not many other sisters do. It's special. I'm even prouder knowing how proud we've made our parents.”
Though the Zamorano family was very involved on the Whittier campus during the six years that the eldest daughters, April and Crystal, attended, Sophia was hesitant to apply to Whittier College. A bit of a rebel, Sophia sought to tread her own path and decided to attend Rio Hondo Community College.
When the time came to transfer, however, Sophia could think of only one place to apply: Whittier College.
“I couldn’t see myself anywhere else,” recollects Sophia. “It has been the best decision I have ever made. Whittier feels like a second home for me.”
But it wasn’t just a family connection that brought Sophia to Whittier. In middle-school, Sophia met Martin Ortiz ’49, who lent his name and legacy to the Ortiz Programs. Ortiz took the Zamorano family under his wings, encouraged the sisters to attend college, thus becoming the first in their family to do so, and helped the family find sufficient funds to send all three girls to Whittier.
For Sophia, Ortiz’s faith in her inspired her desire to pursue a higher education.
“Martin once asked me what I wanted to be when I was older,” she said. “When I told him a veterinarian, he told me that he had a friend that was a veterinarian and that he would set up an internship for me; I was twelve at the time. Martin believed in me before I believed in myself.”
Crystal agrees, “Martin was truly a blessing who not only helped my family through things they may have never thought possible, he also left a lasting impact and taught us the ways to help continue his legacy.”
Sophia was also acquainted with others at Whittier including Professor of Psychology Chuck Hill and Luz Maria Galbreath, director of the Ortiz Programs, who welcomed her and provided the additional support she needed.
“Though we did not get to share the college experience with her, as graduates of Whittier, we were able to offer Sophia advice in many different areas i.e. pledging, choosing a major, and helping with her senior paper,” Crystal explains.
Armed with her sisters’ advice, Sophia pledged for the Metaphonian Society, worked at the Cultural Center, participated in various Ortiz Program events and majored in psychology. Through the Metaphonian Society, Sophia not only met and networked with many students, but also gained leadership skills as the homecoming chair and intersociety representative.
“When I pledged, I just clicked with the other girls, and it was not just my society that I got involved with, but with all the other societies as well… I value the skills that I learned [from being a Metaphonian] and I know I will be able to apply them to the workplace.”
Her eldest sister, April ’04 was involved in the Thalian Society and majored in child development; while Crystal majored in psychology. Only two years apart, both sisters were consecutive presidents of the Hispanic Student Association and played on the Whittier softball and volleyball teams.
Now, it’s about giving back to the College. Inspired by their mentor’s example of giving back to the community, April and Crystal joined the Alianza de Los Amigos, the Latino alumni organization founded by Ortiz.
April currently is serving as the treasurer for Alianza de Los Amigos and Crystal as an executive board member. Sophia plans to join her sisters in Alianza as well.
“I am glad that I ended up at Whittier because although I did not value having so much in common with my sisters in the past, being an alumna from the same private university [as them] is something I will treasure forever.”
After Whittier, Sophia plans to build on the skills and talents she has gained at Whittier and pursue a career in the health field, possibly as a pharmaceutical sales representative.
As for her sisters, April currently owns her own business, exporting cars to China and Japan. Crystal has worked in clinical business operations for Allergan Pharmaceuticals for the last seven years, and credits her experience at Whittier for her success.
“Not only has my Whittier College education prepared me in my professional field but the networking opportunities provided by Whittier have really helped develop me as well. Both have contributed to my leadership and confidence in the workplace.”