"I am thankful that my parents valued education knowing that it opens up doors." Nallely Zambrano Crespo
Nallely Zambrano Crespo is a sophomore, majoring in Criminology, Law, & Society and minoring in Political Science. She is a research assistant in Chancellor's Professor Carol Connor's Individualizing Student Instruction (iSi) Lab and is participating in UCI's Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Nallely will be presenting her research, along with senior Denise Lopez, at UCI's UROP Spring Symposium on May 19. Their joint research project, titled How is Participation in the Classroom Related to Children's Early Learning Success? has been "deemed to have substantial merit" and has been awarded a Honorary UROP Fellowship. Nallely and Denise are being mentored by Professor Connor and PhD students Taffeta Wood and Elham Zargar. Below, Nallely shares her thoughts about her educational journey and her dedication to research.
Growing up, education has always been a major component in all of our lives. From the age of five until the age of 18, we wake up each day to take the same familiar path to school and see our friends. We grow up seeing the same faces each day, whether it’s the kids you went to elementary, middle, or high school with. Some of the peers that I went to school with decided not to pursue the extra years of higher education. For me, college was always the plan because education was always a big priority in my household. I am thankful that my parents valued education knowing that it opens up doors, thus encouraging me to always strive for my best. I knew that I had the ability and capacity to do well, and with their encouragement and support, I became a first generation Latina. I romanticized with the idea of college so much so that it seemed as if a far fetched dream. After all, I was the middle child and only child to ever even step foot on such a campus.
But why this campus? Of all the UCs that accepted me, I chose UCI because of the great research opportunities offered to students. It is also made up of a diverse population, which I felt that I needed having grown up in a predominantly Hispanic and African American neighborhood. When I applied to schools in my senior year, I applied under the Biological Science major. This is not much of a surprise as most people do so, including my own classmates from King Drew Magnet High School. I knew as soon I began my required classes that it wasn’t the major for me, though I stayed in it for two more quarters because of my stubbornness. As soon as I became undeclared, I found that my true passion lay within social reformation. It will therefore come as a surprise that I am not an education major but rather a major in criminology, law and society with a minor in political science. This may be very different in comparison to other people who are conducting education research. However, I believe that a well-rounded education is useful and that working with kids will help me understand other research I plan to do later on. I am interested in studying the juvenile delinquency system, but I also believe that education plays a role. If we encourage education, it will hopefully deter students from taking part in acts that may negatively impact their lives. This was the reason why I ended up as a research assistant in Professor Carol Connor’s Individualizing Student Instruction (iSi) Lab.
Working in the lab with other research assistants has led me to wonder if certain children have an advantage over others when it comes to education. Many people in prison today consists of low income minority groups with predominantly Hispanic and African American populations. These are people that were in my community growing up, who could have been my friends, neighbors, or even me. I believe that a key difference that prevented me from falling into the drug ridden streets I grew up in was my pursuit of education as a way out. These are the people that need the most help in attaining a quality education, which is why I became interested in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). I wanted to be mentored by intellectuals who can help me better understand the educational system and help those disadvantaged in life. My hope is to become a juvenile defense lawyer, or a prosecutor, who can give the youth a second chance without having to place them in the vicious cycle of crime and punishment. Until then I will continue to be a wide-eyed second year student full of hope and desires to absorb as much as I can, learning from my mentors, co-workers, and experiences that I will have along the way.
Nallely Zambrano Crespo