David Zarate

Associate in Computer Science

David Zarate was born in Colombia. After the death of his father when he was 14, his mother decided to migrate to the United States with her two children. Following a brief stay in East Wenatchee, WA the family settled in Miami, FL. Beginning at the age of 15, Zarate worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry to help support his family. After graduating from high school, he worked a series of jobs and was unable to pursue higher education due to his immigration status and financial burdens. When President Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in June 2012, Zarate saw an opportunity to do more. He enrolled part-time at Miami Dade College and began working on his pre-requisite courses to pursue a degree in chemistry.

“When DACA was passed my life changed. I carved out whatever space I could find for school around my work schedules and worked late night shifts until two in the morning so as not to interfere with my daytime classes. I was able to get a work permit and obtain a driver’s license, something that was very helpful with the limited public transportation available in Miami,” stated Zarate.

When his mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Zarate spent countless hours with her at the hospital for her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, an experience that would change his life. For the first time, he became interested in computer science, specifically in finding effective ways to collect and analyze data. He felt passionately that this was the best avenue to help facilitate change. He decided to switch his major from chemistry to computer science. After his mother passed away, he relocated to San Francisco and later Los Angeles, CA for two years before moving to Yakima to be near his uncle. Enrolling at YVC, Zarate began pursuing a degree in information technology.

David credits the success he experienced within the program to help he has received from faculty. “The instructors at YVC are all very welcoming. Professor Apperson became a mentor, and friend,” stated Zarate. In addition to his studies, he helped provide a foundation for a new student club titled Girls Who Code, which promotes equality for women in the field of technology.

“I have made Yakima my home; it was easy to adjust when there are so many kind and welcoming people in the community. I am very lucky to have my uncle, associate pastor at St. Paul’s Cathedral, in my life. He is like a dad to me. In addition, Monsignor Ecker, pastor at St. Paul’s Cathedral and someone that has been working in the Yakima community over 50 years, has helped me since the first day I arrived, he has become part of my family,” stated Zarate.

Zarate graduates this June with an associate in computer science DTA. He is amongst the first students to earn YVC’s new degree. In the fall, he will begin pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science at the University of Washington. He hopes to continue his studies and earn master’s degree in data science.