Karla Zamora has always had big ambitions, and with the guidance of her advisors at St. Thomas Aquinas College, she decided to make the leap from an education major to follow her passion for the criminal justice field.
She has her sights set on law and is studying at STAC to become an immigration attorney with a specialization in deportations. Through her career, Karla hopes to support the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Act and immigrants who receive Temporary Protected Status (TPS).
“Criminal justice is such a diverse field that provides so many different career choices,” she says. “The opportunities are endless.”
Karla, who grew up in Nyack and Valley Cottage, New York, is the youngest of five girls and a first-generation college student. Her career plans are partly inspired by two Latina role models, Alejandra Silva-Exias, an immigration attorney, and Sabrina Greco, confidential assistant to the Chairman at the Rockland County Legislature and a STAC alumna. Both, she says, have the kindest hearts. “They are everything I aspire to be in the future,” she adds.
A recent intern with the office of Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick, Karla translated for Spanish speakers and accompanied the senator to a fair for organizations dedicated to the welfare of immigrants in the United States and handled other administrative duties.
Karla, who is enrolled in the Criminal Justice Master of Public Administration program, looks forward to completing her undergraduate degree and earning her MPA in five years. Her favorite class so far is forensic psychology, which covers an array of interesting topics ranging from the insanity defense to false confessions and serial killers.
Throughout her time at STAC, Karla has connected with several of her professors, including Dr. Ellen Chayet, Professor of Criminal Justice and Director of the MPA program. Dr. Chayet asked Karla to represent the criminal justice department on Accepted Students’ Day and encouraged her to pursue the five-year program.
“Dr. Chayet has become such a special person to me, she is always there to talk with me, support me, and give me her best advice,” she says. “The support system I have at STAC is my number one favorite aspect.”
Karla is a charitable-minded student. When she asked Dr. Tracy Tully, assistant professor of criminal justice, if she would be interested in donating a pair of shoes for a collection for a children’s home in her home country of El Salvador, Dr. Tully encouraged Karla to turn it into a campus-wide endeavor. With Dr. Tully’s help, Karla set up boxes around campus and was thrilled to receive many photos of children enjoying the new clothes and toys donated by STAC’s community.
As a student ambassador for the Social Justice & Equity Forum, Karla helps raise awareness of the needs of the college’s diverse student body. She is also an ambassador for the School of Arts and Social Sciences, an orientation leader, and an event leader, and previously served as a student representative for the COVID Task Force.
In her free time, Karla enjoys making memories with her family, cooking, reading, and swimming. Her career focus is never far from her mind—she enjoys studying and also watching “dark” documentaries on forensic files and true crime. She hopes to travel the globe someday, though right now, her main focus is on her career: “In five years I have no doubt that I will become a part of the 4% of Latinas in the United States with a law degree.”