I struck up a conversation recently with a tall, young man wearing a Central Washington University sweatshirt, called Central Washington State College when I graduated there in 1966. I called out, “Go Wildcats!” to him to break the ice and find out if we were both Central alums.
And an amazing story unfolded. A story about an immigrant’s son, and how our schools and communities are doing to prepare and help our sons and daughters to become full-blown, successful Americans.
Daniel Lee Zavala graduated from CWU in the winter of 2012 with a BS in clinical physiology, and two minors. His minor in Spanish was earned during a three-month independent study in Guadalajara. His minor in athletic training began with CWU classes, and ended with a 400-hour internship shadowing Chelan High School football coach Darren Talley from June to November last year.
“Coach Talley put me under his wing and has made an impact on my life ... he’s the reason I am where I am right now in my career,” Zavala said. “Coach Steve Stamps has also helped me as a lifelong mentor.”
Zavala won a large scholarship from the Lake Chelan Community Hospital Foundation which helps fund students going into health-related professions. His choice was clinicial physiology, a tough major that prepares students to enter clinical areas of health care, graduate school or certification programs in a variety of programs.
Zavala has also become certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He is working fulltime at the Wenatchee Valley YMCA Fitness Center and teaching strength and conditioning classes at Wenatchee Valley College.
Zavala’s next goal is to get a master’s degree in the field of preparing high level, elite athletes for competition. He hopes to get involved as a graduate assistant at one of the universities endorsed by the NSCA. “I know where I have to get,” he says, “but I just don’t know how I’m going to get there yet.”
Dan’s father Arturo was 15 when he left Mexico for California. Dan’s mother Maria was born in California; one of her parents was also an immigrant. She was able to help Arturo secure his American citizenship by age 25.
The Zavalas’ Lake Chelan landscaping and yard care service has flourished into a major commercial enterprise in the valley. Daniel’s brother Arturo, now 27, is a 2009 graduate of the University of Washington. He has returned to Chelan and is working on getting his real estate license.
Daniel Zavala says without hesitation that his motivation comes from within his family. “My parents’ strength and struggles have shown me that hard work and dedication can get me where I want to go. They are my inspiration.” And he added with a big smile, “I intend to work hard and have fun while I’m doing it!”
Daniel Lee Zavala has also proven that America is still the same Land of Opportunity.
Vicki Carr writes about the Chelan area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org