Wake County Public School System

Hall of Fame


Marco Zarate

Marco Zarate is a Co-Founder of the North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals (NCSHP), a statewide non-profit organization founded to promote education among Hispanic youth in North Carolina.

A native of Mexico, Marco moved to North Carolina in 1989 and soon began his journey to invest in the future of Hispanic students. Through the eyes of his wife Susan, an ESL teacher in the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), he saw the challenges faced by the influx of Hispanic students in public schools. It was clear that there was a great need for more community involvement and investment in these students’ futures.

“If we do not focus on helping the children to succeed, we are not going to have the professionals that we want for our state, we are not going to have the skilled people we need to help our state progress. We believe an investment in a Hispanic student is an investment in North Carolina.”

In 1999, alongside his wife and two other couples, Marco founded the North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals (NCSHP). In the last 21 years, he has been instrumental in the development, establishment, and management of numerous impactful educational programs for Hispanic students. Marco served as President of NCSHP, on a volunteer basis, from 2001 to March 2020.

Under Marco’s leadership, NCSHP has served more than 17,000 Hispanic students from more than 50 school systems in the state, including the Wake County Public School System, by offering scholarships, seminars, mentors, tutors, and motivational presentations. The NCSHP also hosts the annual Hispanic Educational Summit, the largest educational conference in NC for middle and high school Hispanic students, giving students from across the state the opportunity to learn about life skills, education planning, and career pathways.

“I strongly believe that education is a key equalizer.”

Since its founding, the NCSHP has awarded more than $570,000 in college scholarships to 440 deserving Hispanic students. Together with WCPSS, they launched the ¡Gradúate! Program, an afterschool program for at-risk high school students. The NCSHP also launched the “TuPortalSTEM” initiative with Burroughs Wellcome Fund to encourage Hispanic students to pursue STEM careers, and promoted the “Your Life, Your Future, Your Destiny…is Now…Stay in School” Awareness Campaign in every NC county, reaching more than 175,000 Hispanic students and their parents.

Beyond his work through NCSHP, Marco has been involved with various non-profit and educational organizations including among others, Communities in Schools of North Carolina Board, the WakeEd Partnership Board of Directors, the Adelante Education Coalition, the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI)’s Graduation Task Force, and the NC Center for Non-Profits Board.

Currently he is an Advisory Board Member for NC State’s College of Education, Advisory Board Member of the Public School Forum of NC, and Member of the Global Network of Mexicans – Raleigh, NC Chapter.

Marco was appointed in 1999 by NC Governor James B. Hunt Jr. as a member of the Commission on Improving the Academic Achievement of Minority and At-Risk Students.  The News and Observer named him “Tar Heel of the Week” in 2003 for his work with the NCSHP in helping students succeed in education. In 2013, he received the Othli Award from the Government of Mexico, which is the highest honor bestowed on a member of the Mexican or Mexican-American community, to acknowledge his altruistic dedication and constant professional activities done towards the empowerment and development of their fellow compatriots abroad in the area of education. Also, he received the “Volunteer of the Year” award from the Hispanic Newspaper “La Noticia”, and Diamante award from Diamante, Inc.

“My hope for the future is that all students in North Carolina embrace all children regardless of their background. To continue closing the achievement gap among our students bringing equity into our classrooms.”

Marco has two children and one grandchild and has been married to Susan Zárate for 38 years, also a Co-Founder of NCSHP and ESL teacher for the Wake County Public School System. Marco has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, and a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from NC State University. Marco is a Project Manager and Auditor in the area of environmental engineering.

“When good things happen to our students, good things happen to North Carolina.”

Marco Zarate was inducted into the Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame in 2020.