Mario Galdamez: Determination. Hard-Work. Perseverance.

Mario Galdamez graduated from UCSC in 2006 with degrees in Politics and Latin American & Latino Studies.

When Mario Galdamez was in high school, the assistant manager at his part time job told Galdamez not to complete his college applications, stating that he didn’t believe that Galdamez had a chance at being admitted into a university. 

But Galdamez knew that with hard work and determination, he would fulfill his dreams of higher education and, one day, be able to encourage students in similar situations. 

Galdamez was born in a rural, impoverished town in El Salvador. When he was about two years old, his mother left him with his grandmother to immigrate to the U.S., seeking a better life and escaping the crude reality of warfare. While in El Salvador, Galdamez’s mother sold oranges and other fruits on local transportation buses, earning 5 colones (an equivalent of $0.70) per day. When he was 9 years old, Galdamez came to the U.S. with a permanent residence card with the assistance of a middle-income family for whom his mother had worked. 

“UC Santa Cruz truly changed my life,” Galdamez says. “It opened my eyes to a world of possibilities, and I encountered amazing support to overcome any challenges that I would face, including embracing my alignment within the LGBT+ community.” 

Galdamez graduated from Merrill College in 2006 with a degree in Political Science and Latin American & Latino Studies. While at UCSC, Galdamez worked as a Paraprofessional Undergraduate Providing Learning Services to Migrant Students (P.U.P.I.L.S) in Watsonville for three years.

Galdamez later obtained a Master’s in Public Administration from Cal State Los Angeles. He worked as the Chief Operating Officer for a nonprofit organization based out of Los Angeles for many years, assisting individuals with disabilities and maximizing their quality of life. 

Currently, Galdamez works as an Immigration Services Officer for the Department of Homeland Security and serves on the UCSC Alumni Council, a group of dedicated volunteer leaders who support the mission of UCSC. 

“I firmly believe that determination, hard work, and perseverance, along with having individuals around you who are committed to your success, makes a world of a difference,” Galdamez says.