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2022 Rising Star Alumni


Elizabeth gamarra

Former Fulbright Scholar, Oxford Consortium Fellowship recipient, Rotary Peace Fellow, TEDx speaker, and former Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) student Elizabeth Gamarra has received the college’s inaugural Rising Star Award.

The Rising Star Award recognizes SLCC alumni who have made a profound and positive impact in their communities and beyond, and who have graduated from the college within the last seven years.

“The purpose of this award is to uplift recent SLCC graduates and highlight their commitment to community and to their professional and personal growth,” said Kate Rubalcava, CEO of Utah Nonprofits Association and a member of SLCC’s Alumni Leadership Council.

“Elizabeth’s nomination stood out as someone who was not only exceptional in her professional accomplishments, but who at her core, is an inspiring leader, dedicated to catalyzing positive change both locally and globally,” Rubalcava said.

Gamarra, who skipped three grades, and through concurrent enrollment began her studies at SLCC when she was 15, earned an associate’s degree in general studies in 2014. She transferred to the University of Utah (U of U), where she pursued undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work. She went on to earn a master’s degree in peace and conflict from International Christian University in Japan and is currently pursuing her PhD there in international relations. Gamarra has also studied international refugee policies at the Graduate School of Geneva and engaged in refugee fieldwork at the Elpida Home for Refugees.

While at SLCC, Gamarra worked with TRIO and Una Mano Amiga (A Helping Hand), where she provided mentoring and mathematics tutoring to underrepresented students. She extended this mentoring program at the U of U to support other transfer students.

“SLCC made me a student for life,” said Gamarra, recalling the diversity of people she was surrounded by at the college, many older than her. “They reminded me you must remain open and curious to get the most out of learning no matter what stage you are in your life.”

“Elizabeth graduated from here, but she never really left SLCC. She has become a central resource and bridge to SLCC and the world,” said Gordon Storrs, who served as a mentor and academic advisor to Gamarra. “When she was here, and still now, she is always looking for ways to empower and uplift students from all backgrounds to reach for the stars in terms of scholarships and new academic opportunities.”

Storrs points to Gamarra’s Generations of Legacies project (GOL), which she started at age 14, to provide educational empowerment to minority groups. It now includes some 3,000 active members worldwide, including many SLCC alumni and students. Through this project she created a platform to share scholarships, academic opportunities and workshops with GOL members. “I started this to motivate my Latino community, including myself, to consider: ‘What would you do if you knew you could not fail?’ And from there, the network naturally grew,” Gamarra said.

She focuses her youthful energy, passion and experience on three main areas: immigration, climate change, peace building and mentorship. “These areas are all close to my heart,” Gamarra said. These passions are reflected in her resume as she has worked for Amnesty International (USA), the Academic Council of the United Nations (Tokyo), and most recently, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency (Paris).

Gamarra immigrated to the United States from Peru. Her father, who ran a small shoe-shine business as a boy, instilled in her a strong work ethic. “He said to me, ‘In every job you must always do the best you can at it, even if you think the job is small or mundane,’” she said.