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South Jordan Journal

Originally from Peru, South Jordan mother and daughter team are a scholastic juggernaut

May 30, 2022 05:31PM ● By Carl Fauver

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

The Taylorsville Campus of Salt Lake Community College (4600 South Redwood Road) has become a kind of “scholastic home away from home” for a South Jordan mother and her three daughters. All four have earned SLCC associates degrees. Mom, Luz Gamarra, is now an instructor at the college. And she, along with oldest daughter Elizabeth, have each earned prestigious honors this spring.

What makes their story even more remarkable is, 17 years ago – when all three of those daughters were under age 8 – Luz and Javier Gamarra migrated more than 4,000 miles with their girls, from Peru. Moreover, they left perfectly comfortable lives and careers in their home country in 2005, all because one of the girls needed critical medical care they could not get in South America.

Luz and Javier were married in Peru in 1994. By the time they moved to the United States 11 years later, Luz had earned political science and law degrees, and had worked as a prosecutor for seven years. She had her sights on becoming a judge.

“People tried to tell me I could never successfully restart my career here; but I was confident things would work out,” Luz Gamarra said. “It was tough to leave my mother and siblings. But we really didn’t have a choice. It has worked out well for all of us.”

Soon after arriving in Utah in 2005, Luz enrolled as an English Second Language student at SLCC. Now she is the school’s Lead Academic Advisor for Humanities and ESL students, where she has spearheaded a number of peer mentoring programs to support students in achieving their educational goals.

All of Luz’s hard work and scholastic achievements prompted SLCC officials to nominate her for the prestigious “USA Today Women of the Year Program.” This spring she learned the newspaper had selected her as its Utah honoree. You can view all of the winners – and learn more about Luz Gamarra’s compelling story – at

“It was amazing to learn about the honor – such a huge surprise,” Luz Gamarra said. “I told them, I dedicated this award to my mom and daughters. Especially as a Latino woman, it makes me so proud. I have been happy to touch the lives of other women and to help improve the lives of their families.”

About the same time Luz was learning of her honor from USA Today, her oldest daughter Elizabeth was also being singled out for her scholastic achievements – by Salt Lake Community College itself.

A former Fulbright Scholar and Oxford Consortium Fellowship recipient, Elizabeth Gamarra received SLCC’s inaugural “Rising Star Award.”

“The purpose of this award is to uplift recent SLCC graduates and highlight their commitment to community and to their professional and personal growth,” said Kate Rubalcava, CEO of Utah Nonprofits Association and a member of SLCC’s Alumni Leadership Council. “Elizabeth’s nomination stood out as someone who was not only exceptional in her professional accomplishments, but who at her core, is an inspiring leader.”

Elizabeth Gamarra skipped three grades before graduating high school and began her studies at SLCC at age 15. She earned her associate’s degree in 2014. She’s now pursuing her PhD in international relations at International Christian University in Japan.

“SLCC made me a student for life,” Elizabeth Gamarra said. Recalling the diversity of people she was surrounded by at the school – many much older than her – she also added, “They reminded me, you must remain open and curious to get the most out of learning, no matter what stage you are at in your life.”

Read more about Elizabeth’s “Rising Star Award” at

Luz Gamarra hopes to take Elizabeth and her other two daughters, Angie and Kimberly, to visit her 80-year-old mother in Peru this Christmas.

“It’s been nearly three years since our last trip to Peru, because of COVID,” Luz Gamarra concluded. “I’m excited to take the girls to see her, because she sacrificed so much to raise me and my siblings. She always made sure we all studied. Mom taught me serving others is the key to life. I have always tried to teach my kids the same thing.”