Meet the Class of 2021: Future Orthodontist Will Nurture Smiles
Date published: August 23, 2017
After high school, Maria Zambrana, BA '21, wanted to explore her roots — an exploration
that took her to Spain, where her great-grandparents hailed from, and to the Universidad
de Navarra, where, like her sister before her, she studied in the international foundation
program with students from all over the world, including others from the U.S. and
many from Asian countries. The students learned about Spanish culture, including the
history and language, and how to immerse themselves in it.
While in Spain, Zambrana traveled some and also took part in the Opus Dei community
there, but she admitted that most of her time was devoted to studying. Still, she
is entering UD as a freshman, though some of her Spanish and psychology credits from
her year in Spain will transfer. She is looking forward to getting back to school
again (she took a year off after Spain), having classes and a schedule, and simply
learning in general.
After working as a dental assistant in the year after Spain, Zambrana is firm in her
dream to become an orthodontist. She plans to major in biology, doing the pre-med
track. When asked what she loves about the field, she laughed: “What don’t I love about it?” She explained that she enjoys all the “nitty-gritty” details of
straightening people’s teeth, but it goes deeper than that.
“As a Catholic and a woman, I want the ability to nurture someone,” she said. “Someone’s
smile can change their outlook on life; it raises a person’s confidence and brings
them closer to the dignity Christ sees in them.”
Zambrana warned that the story of how she learned about UD sounds made-up, but she
promised it’s true: her mother is good friends with Father Paul Scalia, son of the
late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. When asked what schools he would recommend,
UD was on his list. Additionally, though, Zambrana grilled parents of former high
school classmates, many of whose children came here, about their children’s experiences,
including favorite professors. Based on their input, Affiliate Assistant Professor
of Theology Sister Jane Dominic Laurel is among those with whom Zambrana looks forward
Dance falls among Zambrana’s many talents and loves; she spent approximately 30 hours
per week doing traditional ballet all through high school, in addition to participating,
starting her junior year, in a program called Leaping Leaders, in which she and a
friend taught free ballet classes to 6-to-10-year-old girls in an impoverished area
of town. During the school year, they taught every Saturday morning; during the summer,
they would have an intensive course of full days every day for one week. Zambrana
resumed teaching in Leaping Leaders this past year after returning from Spain, biweekly
this time, as she was the only instructor.
“Dance helped me establish my femininity,” said Zambrana. “And teaching it gave me
so much joy.”
Another source of joy was musical theater, in which she participated through both
her parish and her school, singing and taking voice lessons.
“I loved singing,” she said. “I would like to perform in musicals at UD — something
to get me singing again.”
She also found joy in youth ministry, working with middle school girls at her church,
and hopes to identify ways of continuing that type of work while at UD.
Overall, Zambrana looks forward to discovering the new sources of joy that await her
in college — and to meeting the lifelong friends she expects to find here.
In the photos: Top: Valley of the Fallen near Madrid, which Zambrana visited during her time in Spain.
Story body: Zambrana and her friend Maite with the view from the Shrine of Torreciudad behind