Zaray Pelayo-Sanchez

Zaray Pelayo-Sanchez

Dean's Scholar

College of Social Sciences


Why did you choose your major?

I was lucky enough to have chosen the correct major on the first try. History proved to be a subject that I was passionate about reading and learning. It has proved to be far more than simply remembering events and dates and certainly something where learning is never ending. Moreover it was due to my enthusiastic and passionate high school teacher that helped foster my interest in history as well as a desired career in teaching.


What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

Receiving the Dean’s Scholar Award is not only an honor but stands to be a great achievement and encouragement in my journey for my degree. It reinforces all the hard work I have put into classes, especially my ability to transfer from Evergreen Community College in two year and continue the arduous work. Not only have I been able to maintain a four year path to a degree, but have done so while excelling in my classes. It lays to rest all the anxieties, and doubt I have faced along the way.


Who has been influential in your life and/or who has contributed to your academic success?

My parents are a major force behind my success. They have continually provided me with encouragement to follow my passions and to continue on whenever things seemed too hard. They proved to be ideal role models of hard work and were influential in helping me in whatever way they could for me and my sibling to pursue a better future.

Becoming a member of the History honor society Phi Alpha Theta and eventual President has proven to be a great influence to my success at San Jose State.  It allowed me to build a network of fellow students and friends that I was not able to establish while I was at community college since the priority was transferring, not socializing. They proved to be a solid support system, ever encouraging, and major cheerleaders whenever any anxieties and doubts surfaced.

There is also the matter of the wondrous faculty and staff that have been great championing forces in my undergraduate experience. Their dedication and aid has been pivotal in my success.


Did you overcome any hardships or adversities in your life that have helped shape who you are today?  And if so, could you please briefly elaborate?

I have worked for my family’s small janitorial business since I was fourteen. I learned at a young age the hardships of balancing an education and work, undoubtedly something far more difficult attending college. Moreover proved to be an important lesson on the importance of education since I would have more opportunities than my immigrant parents. This experience fortified my desire to excel and attain a career that I would enjoy rather than simply a means of income. My parent’s certainly made sure to encourage and engrain in me the importance of improving myself through education.


What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

My word of advice would be that an education is an investment that pays off with hard work and determination. Life and temptation certainly gets in the way as well as doubt, but when you find what you are passionate for, all the work pays off in the end.


How do you envision yourself in 5-10 years?

In 5-10 years I would like to be teaching high school full time. Hopefully I continue to have a passion for the subject as well as teaching, passing on a fascination of history and education to another generation.


A few words from her nominating professor:

As president of the SJSU chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society, Zaray has built the most active, inclusive, dynamic, and fun student organization our faculty has seen in a decade. Her efficiency, style, and kindness make others want to get involved.

- Professor Patricia Hill