Zephanii Smith was introduced to civil rights and social justice activism as an elementary school student through her local NAACP’s Youth Empowerment Summit. She completed her term on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors and has served as President of the Stockton Youth Council and the California-Hawaii Youth & College Division. Locally, she mobilized her unit on issues related to education and criminal justice including Lobby Days and protests for the Voting Rights Act. In California, she spearheaded the development of socially-conscious youth leaders and sustainable youth units across the state.
Beyond the NAACP, she has experience in youth development initiatives offered by the local, state, and the federal government. In High School, Zephanii was both a Battalion and Brigade Commander in U.S. ARMY Junior ROTC, a student representative to Stockton Unified School District’s Board of Trustees, Vice-Chair of the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Commission, a student journalist for the local newspaper, Speaker of the Assembly in California’s Mock Legislature, a congressional intern, a delegate to the United States Senate Youth Program, an ambassador with People to People International’s Student Ambassador program, and a participant in the Global Youth Forum.
At Claremont McKenna College, Zephanii was a member of the Student Senate and worked at the Henry R. Kravis Leadership Institute. During her junior year, she spent a semester organizing with labor unions in Texas and spent three academic terms abroad in the United Kingdom, The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and South Korea. Her blueprint for social justice entailed connecting young activists around the world in a virtual forum. She spent the first semester of her senior year working on the political campaign trail and in the office of Governor Edmund G. Brown, and her final semester pursuing research and a social entrepreneurship venture to support opportunity youth.
Zephanii, who has been both a Coca-Cola Scholar and a Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholar, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Government from Claremont McKenna College in May 2013. Sh has also served on the staff of her Congressman and completed a master’s degree in Educational Administration & Leadership. She plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in International Education Administration.