Gamaliel Jimenez, a senior studying personal and family financial planning, wants to make a career out of helping others plan for their financial futures.
Aug. 1, 2021

Gamaliel Jimenez's idea of a good time includes researching the used-car market and crunching the numbers on monthly payments and interest rates – the things many people hate about the car-buying process.

For the last few weeks, that's what Jimenez has been doing on behalf of his twin brother, Ezequiel, who is looking to replace his car.

"It was really fun, bringing him along on that journey, explaining the supply and demand, why it's a tough market right now," Jimenez said with a smile while recalling the experience as an example of a time when he knew he was on the right path.

Jimenez is a University of Arizona senior in the Personal and Family Financial Planning Program at the John and Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He said he's found a home at the intersection of business and service to his community by choosing a career path that will let him help others plan their financial futures.

That passion has also earned him recent recognition: Jimenez will enter his senior year as the university's inaugural Charles Schwab Foundation endowed scholarship recipient. The $3.5 million scholarship program was established by the global financial services company in the spring to serve students from underrepresented communities. The University of Arizona was one of seven institutions across the U.S. that the company chose to partner with to offer the scholarship.

The program will provide Jimenez with about $10,000 in his senior year, as well as mentorship from a Charles Schwab representative. The scholarship also comes with an invitation to apply for an internship at Charles Schwab.

"I don't have the words to explain what it means to be recognized," Jimenez said, adding that he's excited to connect with mentors in the field of financial planning. "I'm just glad that there are resources out there to help low-income, first-generation students pursue a career in this."

An Early Passion for Finance

A Tucson native and first-generation college student, Jimenez grew up on the southeast side and spent most of his downtime playing soccer with friends.

His passion for business and making sense of finances started early. In middle school, Jimenez began selling snacks to other kids in his neighborhood, buying chips and popsicles during family shopping trips and selling them at a markup during soccer meetups.

"That didn't go too well – I ate all my inventory," he said with a chuckle.

Jimenez went on to attend Desert View High School where he took an interest in science, technology, engineering and math courses. His older brother, a computer scientist who had an interest in researching stocks and mutual funds, helped spark Gama's passion for finance, and Gama turned to him often with questions.

Jimenez's other passion was finding ways to serve his community. Though he had considered attending college outside of Arizona, he said he was intrigued by the opportunity to stay in Tucson and give back to his hometown.

"I just saw in my community that a lot of people weren't paying attention to their personal finances," he said. "I felt that they needed to learn those skills or at least be given the opportunities to learn them. And I saw that there was probably a way for me to provide that if I stayed here in Tucson."

A New Major and a Promising Start

Jimenez came to the University of Arizona in fall 2018 on a Dorrance Scholarship, which serves first-generation college students attending one of Arizona's three public universities. He began as a pre-business major in the Eller College of Management and heard about the Norton School's Personal and Financial Family Planning Program during a general-education personal finance class.

In that class, Jimenez met Richard Rosen, an associate professor of practice in the Norton School and chair of the Personal and Family Financial Planning Program. Rosen gave a talk on the program, which was new at the time, to inform students about the major.

The presentation piqued Jimenez's interest, and he arranged to meet with Rosen in person shortly after. In that meeting, Jimenez learned that the program was a perfect fit, and switched majors as a sophomore.

Rosen's earliest memory of Jimenez – who goes by Gama – is from a course lecture.

"Gama answered a question with such a response that it literally stopped me dead in my tracks," Rosen said. "It was an incredibly intelligent response to a question that I didn't expect from a student so early in the program, so early in a course."

'Out of Nowhere'

In the years since, Jimenez has taken every opportunity to make the most of his time at the university.

In fall 2019, during his sophomore year, he studied abroad in Orvieto, Italy. Being immersed in an entirely different culture gave him a new perspective on the importance of helping others, Jimenez said, pointing specifically to riposo, or the midday siesta period that closes shops across the country to allow workers to rest for a few hours.

"I thought that was really interesting because they put themselves at the center – they don't really care about anything else other than themselves at that point," Jimenez said. "I kind of like that because it's a way of helping people by making sure they help themselves."

Jimenez has also remained laser-focused on his mission to help others with their financial plans. Instead of finding an internship as part of his degree-completion requirements, Jimenez decided to make his own. He found an opportunity to work with Family Housing Resources, a Tucson nonprofit that helps families find quality and affordable housing, to establish a curriculum for financial literacy workshops for the organization's clients.

While Rosen provided guidance and served as a sounding board, he said Jimenez "did the lion's share of all the research" to bring the workshops to fruition. The pilot program is expected to launch in the fall.

One day in July, Jimenez was wrapping up a meeting with organizers at Family Housing Resources when an email from Rosen came in: Jimenez needed to call him back, and it was urgent.

Rosen had nominated Jimenez for the Schwab scholarship, and Jimenez had been selected to receive it.

"I didn't know what to say," Jimenez said. "It was out of nowhere."

Jimenez easily met all the on-paper requirements for the nomination, Rosen said, including having a "phenomenal" GPA of 3.675. But it was his character, and especially his willingness to help anyone, that made him an obvious candidate.

"He's one of the most respectful young adults I've ever run across – that's what I appreciate about him," Rosen added. "That's the kind of human being you want on Earth."

Doing His Part

With one year left of his undergraduate studies, Jimenez is already setting goals for post-graduation. He hopes to work at TCI Wealth Advisors, a Tucson-based firm with offices throughout the western U.S. But he would like to eventually open his own firm, particularly one that provides financial-planning guidance to low-income communities.

When Jimenez looks back on his college experience and the scholarships that helped him through it, he sees a duty to pay it forward down the road.

"Giving back to my community is an important part of my life and something I want to accomplish at some point in my career," he said. "Since the university is giving me resources to be successful, and Dorrance and Charles Schwab are giving me these scholarships, I have to do my part, too."

This story originally appeared on the University of Arizona News website.