Saying no to the gangs, saying yes to college.

Saying no to the gangs, saying yes to college.

Tony Zamora

On a misty Friday morning I drove up to Palatine Hill, site of the Lewis & Clark College campus in Southwest Portland, to meet with a student at the suggestion of a friend who teaches there. The anthropology professor spoke highly of the student's contributions in one of her classes this fall, and thought the two of us might enjoy each other.

And that's how I came to be introduced to Tony Zamora, starting center on the Lewis & Clark football team and, according to my friend, a polite young man who is a delight to have in class.

During 90 minutes of conversation in a campus coffeehouse populated with not-yet-caffeinated students, Tony told me the remarkable story of the path he followed from a gang-plagued agricultural community in Salinas, California, to the leafy campus of a selective liberal arts school in Portland. In short, he chose faith and football over a potential life of violence and criminality.

I won't say anything more about his story because I hope you'll read the piece I wrote for my newspaper's web site, published earlier today.

I will say, though, that there was an instant affinity from my end, knowing Tony had overcome a set of personal challenges in the very same city where my parents met in the lettuce fields two decades before his mom and dad immigrated there from Mexico. I still have aunts, uncles and cousins in the area -- on both sides of the family -- and I could vividly imagine the cultural and economic environment he dealt with growing up. Most of all, I could relate to the aspirations of a Mexican-American teenager striving to become the first in his family to attend college.

Enough chatter. Here's the story: "Faith and football sustain Lewis & Clark's Tony Zamora"

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