Alma Zamora thought she was only posing for a selfie with late night TV host Jimmy Fallon when he dropped the bombshell: she was going to have the remainder of her college tuition paid for, courtesy of The Tonight Show.
Earlier this month, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon filmed an episode in Austin at the Bass Concert Hall where the show, in association with Samsung, gave three University of Texas students a holiday bundle of products.
Zamora was one recipient.
Along with the gifts, Fallon announced that the students would also have their remaining tuition paid off courtesy of the show.
The award comes as a sigh of relief for students like Zamora, a sophomore at UT, who was thrust into the spotlight after she gave a shoutout to her hometown saying, “Puro 956!”
“It just came out,” Zamora, a radio-television-film major, said. “When you come to UT or go to school outside of the Valley, (Puro 956) becomes so much more than just a little shoutout. It becomes like a statement of solidarity for other first gen kids that are from the Valley. We’re out here working hard and doing our hometown proud.”
Zamora, a Mission native, gained internet popularity as the clip of her TV appearance went viral throughout the Rio Grande Valley with a mix of reactions.
The moment also gave her mother, Aurora Garza, pause.
“At first, I was concerned of the backlash we might have received, but the Valley has actually been very supportive of Alma’s appearance,” Garza said. “This award has been a huge weight off our shoulders. It’s kind of surreal, kind of crazy.”
Garza described her daughter as a “hard working, good student” and that “she never takes herself too seriously.”
Zamora graduated from Mission High School No. 27 in her class of 2018 and is currently a mentor at iKids U in Austin, an afterschool program for children, where she teaches piano and chess.
During Zamora’s visit to the offices of administration, she was told that the award would cover the next two years of her college career. She views the award as a way to better enjoy her experience at UT.
“It’s going to take care of everything,” Zamora said. “I won’t have to worry about where I’m going to live or how I’m going to afford to live … which is great because it’ll allow me to have more time to create art. I’m a film major and photographer and I need time to be able to produce art, so this award is going to allow me to do that.”