Meet Zakiya: College is Worth the Struggle
PeerForward alumni have followed many career paths and found much success. Here, Zakiya Jackson shares his journey.
When did you become a Peer Leader? What was your summer workshop experience like?
I became a Peer Leader in 2011 at the University of California, Berkeley. My workshop experience wasn’t only fun, it was also extremely rewarding and life changing. The Rap Sessions helped me overcome the personal obstacles that had led me to believe college would never be an option for me. I realized I had the power to change my future, a realization that helped me get through my senior year and graduate with honors. That’s why I come back and volunteer with PeerForward every summer; as an Alumni Leader I get the opportunity to pay it forward.
How did PeerForward help you to prepare for college and influence your college experience?
College would not have been possible without learning how to apply for FAFSA. PeerForward helped me understand the components of financial aid and provided the technical knowledge needed to complete my application. I was also able to narrow down my interests and figure out exactly what I wanted to major in while in college – which helped me identify what colleges and universities would be a good fit. Like anyone else, I’ve had a few hiccups throughout my educational journey. PeerForward has served as a support system for me each time I considered giving up.
What obstacles or challenges did you have to overcome in order to get to college?
My biggest obstacle in my road to college was myself. After I graduated high school, I enrolled at Laney Community College in Oakland, CA. After just two semesters, I thought I was over college. I had a job and my parents allowed me to stay at home. All I had to do was to contribute to the household bills. The fact that I wasn’t succeeding in my academic endeavors, the way I had planned during my senior year of high school, made me really sad. So I dropped out for a year. During this time, I decided to volunteer at a PeerForward workshop, an experience that inspired me to go back to college after seeing all the support I had from my team and from the Peer Leaders themselves. After the workshop, I re-enrolled at Laney and then transferred to Texas Southern University (TSU). I’m working harder than ever to maintain my beautiful 3.0 GPA.
How did you and your fellow Peer Leaders help create a college-going culture?
My fellow Peer Leaders and I were voted the “Peer Leader Team of the Year” because we were constantly hosting college application workshops, college nights, and developed an amazing senior wall that shared motivational messaging to help other students strive for greatness.
What campus activities are you currently involved in?
Coming from an arts high school, I’ve always had a fascination for sports so I’m on TSU’s club volleyball team, which allows me to learn more about the game in a semi-competitive environment. I’m also signing up for our debate team.
What do you plan to do after college?
I plan on using my communications degree to obtain a job at a radio station as an on-air personality. Later down the line, I plan on trying my hand in public relations as a corporate publicist.
What advice do you have for high school students who are on the fence about going to college?
The opportunities that you’ll be offered through your college career as well as earning a degree are well worth the struggle. Your education is something that people cannot take away from you.