Local Hero: Gabriel Zavala, Crafton Hills College Paramedics Alumnus

Crafton Hills College paramedics alumnus Gabriel Zavala (Photo by Erick Zambrano/SBCCD).

By Kris Lovekin

For Gabriel Zavala, 25, the more hectic the world feels, the calmer he gets.

That is an especially good attribute to have for this newly trained paramedic out of Crafton Hills College.

“If I had to pick the time when I knew this field was for me, it was a time at the Coachella music festival when we had a patient who wasn’t breathing on her own,” he said. “I just felt calm and I went to work. We got her breathing and got her to the hospital. After the call I had a sense of euphoria and gratitude to know that I had helped.”

That was the moment he knew. “I realized that’s it, that is my life,” he said. “At the time, I was 19. I was blessed to find my path at a young age.”

Zavala lives in La Quinta with his family, including his wife, Marea. They had their first child in early 2021, a girl they named Leia. And yes, it is for Princess Leia of Star Wars fame. “Despite the great hectic nature of this year, that has been a great blessing,” Zavala said.

He took classes at College of the Desert while working as an EMT with the ambulance company AMR in Palm Springs. But then he needed more training to get a promotion to paramedic.

“The Crafton Hills program has such a great reputation,” Zavala said. “I knew I would be set up for success. That is what has happened.”

His training took more than a year at Crafton, first with tests and exercises, then clinical training inside a hospital and in the field. The pandemic requires extra precautions for instructors. “They were driven to keep going because they know we are the ones who need to get out in the field to help people,” Zavala said.

He said Amanda Ward, an instructor at Crafton, is one of the reasons he was able to succeed. “I owe a lot to her as far as the program being continued during the pandemic,” he said. “She is a stellar person. She is a wonderful example of how to carry yourself.”

Zavala’s time as a Boy Scout and playing high school baseball set him up for success. Soon his calm demeanor will be tested by a tiny baby. Help him Obi-Wan Kenobi.


“For most of my life I have been blessed with the ability to stay calm in a lot of hectic environments. I played sports and that helped me develop the attitude.”


“It is 95 percent mental and five percent physical. If you are not able to stay calm when you may be frustrated, you will not succeed. The medical field is the same. There are a lot of long hours. I want to be able to perform well enough to help people.”


“I was told by a mentor of mine: We have a very unique and special opportunity to be able to help people at the very beginning of their lives, and at the end of their lives. The only thing that matters is that we do our best for every single person. I try to live my life in that exact same way.”




San Bernardino Community College District opens doors of opportunity for 20,000 students at Crafton Hills College & San Bernardino Valley College. www.sbccd.edu

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SBCCD Colleges

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San Bernardino Community College District opens doors of opportunity for 20,000 students at Crafton Hills College & San Bernardino Valley College. www.sbccd.edu

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