“Academically talented and politically conscious” is how the 26th California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, described Zephanii (“Ze”) N’shea Smith when selecting her in December 2007 to the prestigious and highly competitive United States Senate Youth Program. The program is an annual scholarship competition funded by the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and endorsed by the U.S. Senate.
Studentsparticipate in a week of intensive study of the federal government as guests of U.S. Senators in Washington, D.C. with all expenses paid by the Foundation including transportation, lodging and meals. In addition, delegates receive a $5,000 Foundation Scholarship to further their education.
Born and raised in Stockton, Smith became involved with the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People (NAACP) as a student at Hazelton Elementary School. Along with performing for the Youth Council’s annual Youth Empowerment Summit, she attended youth-oriented workshops and became acquainted with civil issues as viewed by young people.
“The flame of a young activist was lit,” says Smith.
She has since served as the local chapter Youth President, Youth representative to the National Board of Directors, Vice Chair of the IMAGE Awards Planning Committee, Vice Chair of National Convention Planning, and a member of environmental justice and international affairs committees.
Following her graduation from Franklin High School in 2008 as an honor student, Smith attended and graduated from Claremont McKenna College in June with a bachelor degree in government. Her studies have taken her to the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies; Yonsei University Sangnam Institute of Management; and the School for International Training studying abroad in Amman, Jordan and Cairo, Egypt.
Smith is currently enrolled in the Educational Leadership and Administration Masters Program at the University of Pacific. Working her way through school, she is employed as a staff assistant in the Office of U.S. House of Representative Jerry McNerney from California’s 9th district.
Describing her as “academically talented and politically conscious,” may be an understatement; what do you think?