Faces of the Community: Lake Tahoe Community College’s Zugey Chavarin Faces of Our Community

December 17, 2018

Even before there was a dream, there was defiance for Zugey Chavarin.

Told by classmates, and even a close friend, that she was destined to be a “stay-at-home mom,” Chavarin was just as determined to silence the doubters, as she was to build a successful future. It’s not that she had anything against “traditional” motherhood… she just resented the attempt to be categorized.

It wasn’t until she discovered the Lake Tahoe Community College-connected “TRiO Upward Bound” program at South Tahoe High School that she began to visualize a real pathway to requital.

“I simply don’t like how I was limited. I work very hard in school and deserve to do what I like,” says Chavarin, whose experience in the Upward Bound program led her to enroll as a full-time LTCC student, upon graduating high school. “The only people who will set limits is myself, because Lake Tahoe Community College is there to help me keep learning.”

For Chavarin, the drive and the determination was never in short supply. As a minimum-wage busser at a hotel, barely making ends meet, she realized the importance of a self-chosen career pathway, and knew that higher education was her only vehicle for change. It was at LTCC that she acquired what she calls her “growth mindset,” inspired by the passion and motivation of her instructors and support professionals.

“LTCC has changed my life completely,” says Chavarin. “As soon as I walked on to campus, I felt so much comfort. LTCC cares about and cherishes each and every student… They take the time to really focus on you and your dreams.”

Coming from a low-income background, Chavarin found support in LTCC’s welcoming community – not just emotionally, but financially. Her experience has engendered a sense of duty and community, which drives a deep-rooted desire to give back. As an LTCC Student Ambassador, she relishes the responsibility of connecting with new, often disadvantaged or disabled students, and passing on the same support and wisdom that inspired her to strive for more.

“LTCC has become my second home,” says Chavarin, who also volunteers for the Primary Intervention Project (PIP), in support of access for underserved populations, through LTCC’s Family Resource Center. “We have awesome programs like EOP&S, Equity, and the Disability Resource Center. These programs are there to help students financially, educationally and emotionally.”

The doubters will have sufficiently been silenced by the time Chavarin graduates with her associate degree in liberal arts next summer. To her, this higher education triumph is less about bragging rights, and more about new beginnings. She plans to turn her LTCC experience into a bachelor’s degree in political science, a law degree and ultimately, a community-serving career as a lawyer and motivational speaker.

“I got my friends to come to LTCC with me, and now they say it’s the best decision they ever made,” she says. “This made me realize that I can motivate other women to keep going.

“I am a strong woman with a big dream.”