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Zambrano joined Gateway to College in January for the spring semester, her stomach aflutter with nerves after a year without setting foot inside a classroom. But she was fiercely determined, and found the support she needed.

"It's a school where you're not judged for getting bad grades or doing drugs," says Zambrano. "They don't judge your past, they focus on your future."

For the first time in years, Zambrano feels her future is bright. She scored a 4.0 grade point average her first semester, and achieved perfect attendance. She was voted by her peers as the first president of the Gateway to College Club. She shared her story at the junior college's Building Community Breakfast at the Petaluma campus on June 5, earning a standing ovation from hundreds in the crowd.

After finishing her degree next spring, she plans to get an associate degree at the college before going to a four-year university to pursue a degree in psychology. Ultimately, she hopes to work with teens who strayed down the wrong path, just like she did.

"You should always have a second chance," she says. "A lot of us make mistakes when we're young. But we all deserve a second chance."