Unsung Santa Cruz: Counselor Zamora helps students succeed in a post-pandemic world

Man giving a thumbs up
(Angel Marron-Rocha)

Roberto Zamora, an academic counselor at Rolling Hills Middle School, is an unsung hero dedicated to helping students navigate their educational journeys. Born in Mexico and raised in Watsonville, Zamora goes above and beyond to support not only students but also his colleagues, offering guidance, assistance and even acts of kindness like buying lunch for those in need. His passion for making a difference, fueled by his own experiences, makes him an invaluable asset to the community of Santa Cruz County.

Editor’s note: Lookout’s high school journalism challenge invited students to write a profile of a local unsung hero who is making a positive difference in our community, inspired by our popular “Unsung Santa Cruz” series. Our editing team read and reviewed the submissions, publishing the top ten stories. The top three authors are awarded a $500 scholarship.

School is a place every kid goes to. Whether it be elementary, middle school, high school or college, there are a lot of pathways each student goes through. No student is the same; one may excel at math but struggle with English, and another may do well in science but struggle with history. It can be daunting for students to imagine the different paths they can choose in their education and keep track. This is where an academic counselor named Roberto Zamora comes into the story, a person who helps students and parents plan their education and helps them achieve their future.

Roberto Zamora is an academic counselor at Rolling Hills Middle School in Watsonville. Born in Mexico and raised in Watsonville, Zamora has been helping out the students in the community to graduate and go to college. He is a kind and caring person, helping out not only students but also his coworkers in any way possible, whether it be helping them out with their classwork or even buying them lunch on a day they forget their lunch money. When asked to reflect on why Mr. Zamora is such a great counselor, Griselda Huerta, a coworker of Zamora and a counselor at the middle school, said, “He is very friendly and polite with parents and students. He’s a team player and he is very helpful to everybody – he likes to support, especially with activities that aren’t part of his role. He is always willing to help.”

Mr. Zamora used to be my counselor at Diamond Technology Institute, a small CTE-based high school also in Watsonville. What I liked most about having him as my counselor was that he was always in a good mood, cheering up everyone whenever he was present. He would always joke around with the students and play games with them, and he was always a fun person to have around in the classroom.

There are a lot of variables when it comes to school and the career you are interested in. What classes should you focus on more? Should you join school clubs to boost your chances of getting into college? What scholarships are available? How much will college cost? A lot of these are questions that students ask or think about. Sometimes schools don’t talk about that information or about going to college. Zamora himself experienced this back when he was a student – he didn’t have a counselor to tell him about college and what would be best for him to pursue. “I never met my counselor in high school. … Nobody told me about going to college,” Zamora said. This influenced him to become a counselor because he wants every student to have an education and a degree for their desired career. He is passionate about his work, not only helping students but also parents with the financial side of college, always making sure that students know about services that help with their tuition like FAFSA. “I want to make a difference and help students because there’s a lot of communication informing parents that kids don’t have to pay, and money shouldn’t be an obstacle. So I want to make a difference because I faced many obstacles going to college,” Zamora explained.

In a time when we are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, and this huge disruption to the school system, it is more than necessary that we have counselors like Zamora helping out as much as possible as COVID abruptly paused students’ education. Huerta commented, “I think there’s a lot of students nowadays going through so much, post COVID a lot of students with anxiety, there’s a lot of things they are going through not just anxiety. Depression, identity, many things … I think now more than ever they need a lot of support, encouragement, motivation and we think that counselors play an important role in supporting the students.”

Zamora is an amazing counselor who truly cares about the community and wants our students to succeed. No matter what it takes, he will always be there to support people, going beyond what is asked of him in his role. This is why he is an unsung hero in the community of Santa Cruz County.