Zachary Vestal: In Progress

Posted on September 14, 2015

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Junior Zachary Vestal has a lot to say, and his energy and enthusiasm will make you want to listen. He considers himself a very average, regular student. He doesn’t get straight As. He didn’t come to UNCG knowing exactly what he wanted to do. There were times in his freshman year when he wasn’t as focused on classes as he should have been. He has grown, however, and become a leader on campus. He is learning who he is and what he does well. In his words – he is progressing.

Zachary grew up in Raleigh. He learned a lot about community service from his mother, who is active in several organizations. Zachary became involved in the American Cancer Society because of her. He also worked as a volunteer and then counselor at the John Chavis Community Center.

He arrived at UNCG without clear plans on a major or what he wanted to accomplish.

“Freshman year I didn’t do much. I just learned about school. I tried to get my feet under me, and just be a regular college student. Sophomore year I got a job on campus in the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), and then junior year – now – I still work for OMA and for student government. So I’ve been progressing slowly, and I think that’s important. Not everyone goes in (to college) and automatically knows what they’re doing.”

Zachary found his direction academically, and is now double-majoring in political science and African-American studies, with a minor in sociology. He plans to graduate in May 2016 and is considering a few different career options. He’s thinking of attending either law school or graduate school for public administration or urban development.

Within the Student Government Association (SGA) he serves as chief of staff, which means he is a liaison between the president and senate.

“Student government is important to me because it’s for the students by the students. Everything we do is for the students. We have our hands in a lot of things that happen on campus – even if we are behind the scenes.”

Zachary also values his work with the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“We talk about pretty hot, hard-hitting topics. We try to stay up-to-date. We talk about thinks like tolerance, not only for race but gender equality. We also have lighter events, like de-stress days. We hold events with NC A&T, we hold events for every heritage month. We always have an event going on – there’s always a way to meet people.”

Zachary says he is still progressing, but it’s clear he has already learned a great deal about himself and about the value of getting involved on campus.

“(Getting involved) has taught me how to put forth my leadership a lot better. I feel like I’ve always been a leader, but I wasn’t a leader the way I should have been in high school or my freshman year. I could lead you to the gym or lead you to help me with my assignments, but now I’m leading a student to donate to a good cause, or to come to an event to learn about financial stability.”

“I don’t think you ever want to spend a day on campus where you feel like you didn’t do anything. This is college. We didn’t get this in high school. We might not get this outside of college.”

“The most important stuff you learn is through involvement on campus, and through just meeting people and networking. This is where the rubber meets the road. The best leaders aren’t always the best students, and the best students are not always the best leaders. I’ve never been that great of a student – I’ve always been an average student – but you can’t tell me that I’m not a leader. You can’t tell me there’s not more I can do on campus.”

“Whenever I talk to people that are coming in, I tell them to get involved, try to make friends, and if you can’t find friends – get more involved. At some point you’re going to find something you like. At some point you’re going to find people you like, you’re going to find people that appreciate you. Having friends is really the answer, if you ask me. I wouldn’t be in SGA if I didn’t hear about it from Jawarris. I wouldn’t be with OMA if I didn’t hear it from Malcolm and Cidney. People like Miles, Shelby, Kyra, Gizelle, my sister Brooke, and my whole Reynolds family from freshman year have kept me grounded. I can name these people who brought me to where I am. I didn’t do anything by myself. So just get involved. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an outgoing person. There are friends for everybody, there are events for everybody. There’s somewhere for everyone to go.”

“My parents are the reason I’m able to do everything I am today. I didn’t always do exactly what I said –but I’m going to show them this story and show them that it was worth some of the work they put in. I want to make sure they know that I’m doing the things I’m supposed to be doing in college and they can be proud. I forget to give my parents credit a lot, but I didn’t do this alone.”

“Regular students are ok. It’s ok to be a regular person. It’s ok to not have the most amazing resume in the world. It’s ok. You can still do your thing. I’m regular. I’m average, but I can bring people together and work with people who are above average in their own way to do something greater, and that’s my way of being above average. You don’t have to be perfect, but you can still be good and do your thing and learn what your thing is.”

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