Alumna Betters Her Community Through Inspiring Others To Become Leaders

Nilmarie ZapataAs program manager for the National AmeriCorps program, Public Allies, for Central Florida, under Community Based Care of Central Florida, Nilmarie Zapata, ’07 and ’09, wears a variety of different hats. Zapata serves as the AmeriCorps volunteer’s coach, mentor, leadership facilitator, curriculum designer and trainer. She also makes time to act as a founding curator for the Global Shapers Orlando Hub and to volunteer with City of Life, where she focuses on collaborative problem solving around Central Florida’s foster youth. Zapata isn’t content to simply be active in her community. She wants to help others become confident leaders of their communities who will succeed, no matter their background.

She graduated from UCF with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a focus on international relations in three years and achieved a master’s degree in public administration by age 22. She also holds a certificate in volunteer management from Rollins College’s Crummer’s Graduate School of Business. Since 2010 Zapata has served as a graduate professor for the dual language university, Ana G. Mendez, at the Metro Orlando Campus. Her teaching topics include non-profit sector, public administration, community organizing and asset based community development.

In 2012, Florida’s League of United Latin American Citizens recognized Zapata for her contributions during her appointment as Commissioner of Press and Communications for the state. UCF’s own President Dr. Hitt recognized Zapata for her contribution to public service this year.

We recently had the chance to interview Zapata about her time at UCF and how she feels her job is making a difference.

How has your UCF degree helped you in your career?

Both my undergraduate degree from UCF in political science and graduate degree in public administration provided me the necessary knowledge to excel in providing work that advances our communities.

Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?

I was not heavily involved in non-academic extra-curricular activities. I would recommend that students get involved in service learning projects early on and to take advantage of the innovation labs offered at UCF rather than wait post-graduation.

Have you stayed connected with UCF since graduation? If so, how?

Yes, I have stayed connected with my professors. I also visit UCF frequently in order to spread awareness about programs that may benefit the university’s students and/or alumni. I also participate in research/practice conferences when available.

What is your best UCF memory?

I met my husband and life-long friends at UCF during my graduate studies. During my undergraduate studies, my best memories include the opportunity to connect with many individuals from diverse backgrounds and learn from them. For example, in a classroom you could hear perspectives form individuals from Venezuela, Colombia, Turkey, the North East, Rural areas, Orlando, and Kissimmee— such was amazing.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

My favorite thing about my job is the opportunity I have to inspire others to reach their highest potential both personally and professionally.

What is your most memorable experience on the job?

I once received a handwritten note stating, “You inspire me more than you think and are the best role model I’ve had in my life.”

What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?

Network and take advantage of being part of one of the greatest and largest university communities in the nation. Also, take the time to learn more about all of the UCF faculty and student groups available. You would be surprised with what you learn.

Who or what inspires you?

My parents and family inspire me as they have provided the foundation for me to dream, to have values and serve. Being held accountable to my community and family keeps me inspired and held accountable.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

A funny one is people not cutting their lawns or trimming their bushes/shrubs. Another is seeing individuals diminish their dreams and/or professional potential because of silly reasons or other people. Also, I don’t enjoy waiting for people.

What is your favorite word/phrase?

“Hay Santo”; “What are you waiting for, just do it.”

Where did you go to on your last vacation?

El Conquistador, Puerto Rico

What or who makes you laugh out loud?

Myself, I laugh at myself all the time.

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