By ELIZABETH PETERSON
The Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to a Pima Community College student for the first time.
John Roldán, 61, was raised in New York City’s Puerto Rican slums.
He’s and was one of many Tucsonans who lost their jobs in the recent recession. This compelled him to broaden his horizons and continue his education. After 40 years away from school, he went back.
“I feel honored and privileged to have been awarded this scholarship,” Roldán said. “Not only because it is an aid to completing my social work education, but because it is a scholarship awarded in honor of a truly dedicated and inspiring individual — Gabe Zimmerman.”
The scholarship, administered by the PCC Foundation, was created in 2011 for students pursuing careers that help serve the community.
The award is named after Gabe Zimmerman, who was an aide to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Zimmerman, the son of PCC employee Ross Zimmerman, was one of six people killed at a Congress on Your Corner event hosted by Giffords last January.
Before studying social work at PCC, Roldán worked in the computer industry for almost 30 years as a programmer, systems expert and database creator. He also worked as a computer applications instructor for the last 10 years.
The economic downturn forced most of Roldán’s clients to reduce or completely eliminate their training programs, leaving him without work for almost two years.
Roldán also has more than 20 years experience in volunteer work for a variety of local, non-profit organizations.
As a volunteer, he helped numerous low-income families address housing challenges. These experiences sparked his interest in enrolling at PCC, to turn his passion for helping people into a career.
“I determined to change my life course into social work since that is what I have held dear to my heart for so long,” Roldán said.
Roldán expected that going back to school after such a long time away would be an eye-opening experience. He now feels much more comfortable, and even finds himself assisting other students struggling with their studies.
This only gives him more motivation to succeed.
“Returning to school as a student has been one of the most difficult transformations that I have ever had to make, especially since I had been an instructor for so long,” Roldán said.
He has worked with the Social Services Student Organization at West Campus the last two years. He notes that it has given him many opportunities to engage in a form of social work while still pursuing his studies.
Roldán plans to use the education he earns at PCC to go on and obtain a bachelor’s of social work or possibly a master’s of social work at Arizona State University-Tucson.