Spring 2021 Spirit: Alex Zamora, Jr. (TM ’00)

40 Under 40 Honoree Alejandro Zamora, Jr. (TM ’00) remains rooted in his community

Throughout his life, Alejandro Zamora, Jr. (TM ’00) has sought to challenge himself. For many, simply making ends meet while raising two young children — especially during the pandemic-laden past year — would be demanding enough. Zamora, however, along with fulfilling his commitment as a father, has excelled professionally while continuing to serve his community.

In March 2021, the Milwaukee Business Journal selected Zamora as one of its 40 Under 40, a prestigious group of young professionals under 40 years old who are making a difference in their industries and communities. The 40 Under 40 Awards recognizes the best and brightest that the Milwaukee community has to offer — established business leaders, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and up-and-comers who have blazed a trail in the business world in their careers.

“To be one of the 40 selected out of nearly 300 applications is really an honor,” said Zamora, who was nominated by his manager at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, where he helps manage clients’ financial portfolios. “It is not something that I achieved on my own — from the confidence that my manager has in me, to the colleagues who guided me and many who assisted with community events, to my parents who ensured that my siblings and I had their support and as many opportunities as they could provide.”

Zamora began at J.P. Morgan Chase in 2005 as a Personal Banker at the branch located at South 27th Street and West Loomis Road. Although this location was Chase’s most transaction-heavy Milwaukee branch and served a significant number of the city’s Hispanic and Latino population, Zamora was the branch’s only bilingual banker, making him a trusted contact for Hispanic and Latino customers.

After success in this role, Zamora was promoted to Branch Manager for Chase’s branch on South Cesar Chavez Drive and West Greenfield Avenue. From there he returned to the 27th Street location as a Financial Advisor. In this role, he advised many Spanish-speaking residents and learned more about the fundamental issues facing the community.

“They wanted to invest, but I started to realize that most prospective customers, especially those who were Hispanic or Latino, did not have any formal financial education and therefore had very low financial literacy, especially about investments,” Zamora explained. “With many families living paycheck-to-paycheck, recommending an investment product, which involved potential loss of principal in the short term, was not in their best interest.” “There is still a lot of work to do in this regard, and I hope to help erase the gaps in this knowledge which will directly work to erase the prevalent wealth gaps which are so front and center.”

Zamora’s personal and professional experiences continue to motivate his community service. He supports organizations that promote personal finance, literacy, and entrepreneurship for young people. Volunteering with SecureFutures, he teaches Milwaukee-area high school juniors and seniors about credit because he was, as Zamora describes, “the poster child for what not to do with a credit card.” Zamora also serves on the boards of the Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library and BizStarts and volunteers with the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee.

Zamora also co-chairs J.P. Morgan Chase’s Hispanic and Latino Employee Business Resource Group, known as Adelante, Spanish for “forward.” One of 10 Business Resource Groups recognized by the firm, Adelante seeks to provide the company’s Hispanic and Latino employees with professional development and networking to help advance their careers, foster cultural awareness, support local communities and positively impact how the firm achieves their strategic priorities. Locally, the group has donated essential supplies to areas struck by natural disasters, conducting toy drives for low-income children, and completing beautification and clean-up projects.

Zamora with his family at the 40 Under 40 viewing

By serving on the St. Thomas More Advancement Committee and Alumni Board of Directors, Zamora also volunteers to assist his alma mater with recruitment, fundraising, business operations, and more. Zamora especially enjoys having an opportunity to influence the lives of current St. Thomas More students.

“I wanted to give back to St. Thomas More because of the great experiences that I had as a student,” Zamora described. “When it comes to my service to the school, I have a two-pronged approach — first, to help spread the word about St. Thomas More and, second, to be a resource for the current students,” especially for students of color. “It’s important for students to see someone who looks like them who is making leaps and bounds in the professional world.”

A first-generation American, Zamora’s family background mirrors that of many households on Milwaukee’s south side. Following his brothers, Zamora’s father, Alejandro Sr., immigrated to Milwaukee from Mexico 60 years ago and worked for 33 years at Milwaukee Forge in Bay View. For Alejandro Sr., the thought of leaving the city — even during Wisconsin’s bitter-cold winter months — was never an option.

“Whenever I ask my dad why Milwaukee, with so many warmer places between here and Mexico, he says, ‘Listen, Milwaukee is the best city in the entire country to live in. We don’t have to worry about wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes. We have abundant clean water, and the summers are amazing. So, we have to put up with six months of winter; bundle up and quit complaining.’” When asked why he has chosen to raise his family in Milwaukee, Zamora added “I can’t argue with my dad’s practicality, and it always gets a few laughs, but Milwaukee has so much to offer: arts, sports, wonderful outdoor spaces, good business opportunities and a very eclectic history. It has big city amenities without big city hassles. We also have a lot of dedicated people who are passionate about fixing the issues facing the city. I want to be part of that solution.”

After first living on the east side, Zamora’s parents moved to the south side’s Southgate neighborhood, purchasing a home within walking distance to the public bus line on Oklahoma Avenue. While some neighbors initially shared their disapproval about a Latino family moving into the community, the family quickly became friends with many of those same households. Each Sunday after Mass, a young Zamora would visit his neighbor to watch whichever sport happened to be on TV. About a decade later, Zamora and his wife, Jeanet, would purchase that same house, now raising their two children just across the alley from his parents.

As Catholics living on the south side, the Zamora family believed that a St. Thomas More education for their children would be worth the financial sacrifice. Along with receiving a high-quality education in STEAM and the humanities, Zamora benefited from St. Thomas More teachers who went the extra mile to open doors for him. Spanish teacher Ann Marie Dorn would take Zamora to Hispanic Chamber of Commerce meetings.

“Mrs. Dorn and [retired St. Thomas More English teacher] Mrs. [Vicki] Nast got me involved in the Milwaukee business world by taking me to Hispanic Chamber of Commerce meetings and were my first mentors. It’s because of them that I had my first business cards made — just my name, address, and phone number; we didn’t have email back then — and got to meet people that inspired me and that I may not have met otherwise.”

Zamora also fondly remembers former English teacher Mike Mikula (TM ’84) and his affinity for actor Lawrence Tureaud — better known as “Mr. T.”

“I once rigged my backpack with speakers and was playing the original A-Team theme song on my way to English. Then I presented Mr. Mikula with a Mr. T bobblehead and some pictures for the classroom corkboard.” Zamora also remembers handcuffing a briefcase to his wrist to ensure his final research paper made it to Mikula’s hands safely, given it was required to graduate.

Along with providing him with countless memories, including when he arrived at senior prom in a horse-drawn carriage, Zamora believes that St. Thomas More was vital for his growth as a lifelong learner, career professional, practicing Catholic, and engaged community member.

“Faith, Integrity, Character and Excellence are synonymous with what we learned at St. Thomas More and my time there reinforced and strengthened the moral and personal foundation my parents instilled in me early on: If you have the opportunity to help somebody, do it.”

About the Author
Kevin Russell has been a member of the STM Development Department since January 2014. He currently serves as Marketing Director, chairs the STM Communications Committee, and acts as the primary content editor for the Spirit.

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