Sean Goheen (Host) 00:00:01
Greeting scholars and welcome to Following the Gong, a podcast of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
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Following the Gong takes you inside conversations with our Scholar Alumni to hear their story so you can gain career and life advice and expand your professional network. You can hear the true breadth of how Scholar Alumni have gone on to shape the world after they rang the gone and graduated with honors and learn from their experiences so you can use their insights in your own journey. This show is proudly sponsored by the Scholar Alumni Society, a constituent group of the Penn State Alumni Association. I'm your host, Sean Goheen, class of 2011, and college staff member. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. If you're a regular listener, welcome back.
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Sean 00:00:55 This episode is a great listen for prospective students looking to apply to Penn State and are considering one of our Commonwealth campuses, first generation scholars, scholars, and potential scholars already at a Commonwealth Campus. Scholars interested in entrepreneurial ventures, be it for profit or not-for-profit, and scholars planning to apply for medical school. Zelnnetta Clark class of 2019 is the co-founder of a 5 0 1 C three nonprofit called Rebuild the Block. Corp. RTB is committed to supporting and educating black entrepreneurs in black communities where there's been a historical lack of access to educational, financial, social, and economic opportunities due to systemic racism before creating Rebuild the Block Corp in 2020. Zelnnetta previously worked with the behavioral health field. She earned her BSS in Psychological and Social Sciences with honors from Penn State Abington in 2019 while working with R T b, Zelnnetta is currently applying for medical school.
Sean 00:01:45 In this episode, Zelnnetta shares her insights on deciding on Penn State as an out-of-state student and choosing a campus other than University Park for the small community and class size, finding unique majors at Penn State that are not available at University Park, applying to and succeeding in the college as a current Penn State student at a Commonwealth campus achieving academic excellence and being a student leader as a scholar at a Commonwealth campus. Overcoming the intimidation factor with the honors thesis, especially for scholars who start after their first year, the value of setting milestones in the thesis process and learning professional skills while completing the process. Pursuing post-baccalaureate programs and hustling with a variety of gates in the gap year before medical school, including turning down offers that are not the right fit. Taking action to correct causes you're passionate about by starting a non-profit advice on starting a non-profit or other entrepreneurial ventures. Suggestions for applying to medical school from someone living the experience right now and thoughts on taking a gap year before applying, overcoming self-imposed limitations and the importance of time management in college and in life beyond for pursuing multiple passions. With that, let's dive into our conversation with Zelnnetta following the Gong.
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Sean 00:02:57 Zelnetta, thank you so much for joining me today here on following the Gone, you have the distinction of being our first graduate from a campus other than University Park on the show, so congratulations on that. I'm excited to finally get a campus grad on here. I wanna start off with how did you come to attend Penn State and specifically again as our first campus graduate, the beautiful Abington campus that is just outside of Philadelphia?
Zelnnetta 00:03:24 Good morning. Good morning. Thank you so much for having me Abington. Woo woo. Um, for me, really, it was actually pretty unconventional. I am not gonna lie. Um, being a first gen student, I didn't know where I was going going to go. I didn't know much about college. It was kind of like pick and choose. So for me, my God brothers actually attended a school in Philly. Um, and I wanted to be closer to home because leaving home was a big deal for myself, for my mom. She was freaking out when I got, uh, when I was talking about going to California and you know, when you're in the application process you kind of, the sky's the limit, you wanna go anywhere. And I was like, okay, lemme play it safe, let me go far but not far enough. And um, I was like, okay, my God brothers was a school in Philly so I'm like, I don't wanna go to that school 'cause I don't wanna follow the tradition 'cause all my God brothers went there.
Zelnnetta 00:04:20 Um, and Penn State just kind of kept sending me emails about applying and I was just like, you know what, it's Penn State like the network is awesome. Why wouldn't you do, why wouldn't you wanna go to Penn State? Small problem, I could not handle being in a class of a concert, you know, size class. And I was just like, that's gonna be too big for me. Um, and then I came across Abington. I didn't know that and a lot of people don't know, even when I'm talking to them about Penn State now that there's so many campuses and Abington was really in the middle of everything. Like it's right there next to Philly and I love Philly's diversity. So I really chose Abington because of the location. And then once I visited the campuses, the campus, it just blew my mind. It blew my mom's mind.
Zelnnetta 00:05:09 She was like, can I stay here with you? Um, and also seeing like the landscape, 'cause it's built on a hill and the buildings, there's not many buildings so I'm like someone who's a little lazy and is not <laugh> is not physically fit. I was like, this is perfect, but also I'll be getting my workout in every day walking to classes. So really just getting that feel for Abington by attending the, um, doing attending a tour really made my decision and just really liked the convenience of the location U Park. I was like, maybe I'll transfer to U Park, you know, at like after sophomore year. But Abington, they got me. They were stuck with me through the full four years. So. And
Sean 00:05:51 For those of you who don't know, and I'm sure you could probably rattle this off too, Penn State Abington was originally Penn State Gons and it has a long history as the Gons Women's School. I think you can claim Amelia Earhart as one of your alumni on the campus and it's, so it's a, a beautiful old property kind of settled right in the middle of a neighborhood. So if you are ever in that area, stop by and check it out. Get a picture at the Lion Shrine there. And speaking of unique things of the Penn State, Abington is your major. So you majored in psychological and social services and to my knowledge we don't offer that at any of the colleges here at U Park and I don't know if any other campus offers it. So can you talk about what that program is and why you picked that one?
Zelnnetta 00:06:33 Absolutely. So originally I was looking like I previously mentioned to transfer to U Park originally my major was more of the pre neuropsych major 'cause I wanted to be pre-med and get those science prerequisites done before applying for med school. However, um, just the way Schreyer kind of works, especially at smaller campuses, I not to give it away, I decided to um, say declare my graduation 2019. So if you're in Schreyer and you declare your major, I mean your graduation at a certain time, that's when it's expected for you to graduate. So once I was looking to transfer, um, something happened with credits, whatever, and I ended up singing Edmonton, which was, I'm glad that happened. Um, so then my major had to change 'cause Abington did not offer the neuropsych program. And I was like, well I don't, I wanna make sure I get my strides credits because if I try and do the science classes required for med school, that means I'm not graduating in 2019.
Zelnnetta 00:07:31 And I'm like, as an honor student, you work so hard, you're like, no, you, you wanna finish when, when necessary so you can get that credit accreditation and then also you get your, you know, your award, your little award. So that was really important to me as well. So I chose psychological and social sciences and really what that major is, is that general psychology knowledge, you know, the study of human behavior, but it takes it a step further where you're taking general sociology classes and then once you get over, like I would say freshman, sophomore year after, um, taking those general classes, you can dive deep into other types of area sociology like I did, uh, sexuality and gender study. And I think just my journey in college, just like I said, being a first gen student and just learning along the way, it was really beneficial to me as someone who's now outside of uh, well someone who has grad postgraduate, um, because it definitely changed my outlook on a lot of things on, on life on di it GI gives you a different perspective 'cause you're understanding human behavior, but you're understanding how society influences those human behaviors and why people do things such as, um, conformity for for example.
Zelnnetta 00:08:47 And it was a really interesting perspective and I think that's kind of what trailed me into a lot of my passions that I do now outside of undergrad. So it's, it's a really good major because you're not only getting that psychology portion but you're getting the sociology and I'm like, I don't even know how they bridge two different disciplines into one to get one major. So it definitely is something that I really appreciated them putting a program that I appreciate them putting together because it definitely has influenced my thinking vastly as a, an adult now in the workforce.
Sean 00:09:20 So I also started at a Commonwealth campus and for those of you who are listening who are maybe those high school applicants and you're looking into the college, take a look at our campuses, there are some really unique majors like that that only exist at a campus like Altoona's Railroad Engineering or the Psychological and Social Sciences at Abington. And there's a plethora of other great options at our campuses that you should check out. Obviously you kind of had some dual decisions going on. You're, you're in your second year, you're working on transitioning to U Park may, it sounds like it doesn't work out quite right for you, but it's also about the time you were probably applying to get into the honors college at a campus. How did you go about that process? What, how did you first learn about the Schreyer Honors College? How did you go about applying, what was that process? What recommendations do you have for students who are at a campus and maybe considering following the same steps that you did?
Zelnnetta 00:10:14 Great question. Um, like I said, my college experience was very unconventional and as I previously alluded to, I did not matriculate into Schreyer right after high school. I did not apply, um, for Schreyer after high school or during high school. I applied forres I believe sophomore year and I matriculated into Schreyer junior year. So definitely that's what influenced like the transfer, kind of being shaky. 'cause at that point I'm already a junior. Um, and really how I got interested, uh, got introduced. Schreyer was a colleague of mine who was also a part of a club I was heavily involved in, which was called Community Outreach Workers Cal. And we would just, we spent so much time, you know, anybody who is involved in student engagement, you know how much time you spend out on campus doing, um, work outside of you know, your academic academic work.
Zelnnetta 00:11:06 And we would spend countless of hours just kind of planning the club 'cause a student led and she was like z you know, she's talking about some of her assignments for honors co uh, her honors, um, excuse me, courses. And she's like, you know what, Z can you help me with this? And I'm like, I, I'm not an honors student, I don't know how to do this. And she's like, but you know what Z you're like we are in all the same classes too. You're in the same major. And she was like, you know what Z you're so smart. I why are you not a part of Schreyer? And I'm like, what is that <laugh>? What is Schreyer? And she uh, told me a little bit more about about the honors program and I think she matriculated, um, from high school into college Schreyer student.
Zelnnetta 00:11:47 And I immediately, for me, I was kind of elated that she told me about this because I've always been that student that always wanted to challenge myself. I'm very inquisitive so I wanna know everything and <laugh> anything if I can. So for me it was like, you know, I went through high school, I took honors, I took AP even though I had no business taken Biology, it was not ready for that. But I took those type of courses and I wanted to challenge myself in college. And the fact that Schreyer had that opportunity where even though I didn't apply you know, freshman year or I didn't get in freshman year, the fact that I can apply throughout the years was pretty awesome 'cause a lot of, I don't know, but I feel like a lot of schools don't have that opportunity. So once she told me about it, I did my research on Schreyer, I was intimidating, intimidated about the <laugh> thesis, but we'll get into that later.
Zelnnetta 00:12:41 But I was just like, you know what, this is gonna challenge me and this is gonna make me a better professional. I aligned with the mission, I love the mission, especially when it's talking about, you know, civil engagement, civil service. I think that's super important in a school's mission. So as soon as she told me I did my research, I just applied and it was a pretty simple application. I mean obviously every, any application you have to work diligently on what you want on your responses and you know, make sure you're the best applicant possible or that you can be. Um, but other than that it was pretty, it was pretty simple. It was stressful 'cause I really, really, really wanted to get in. But I had so much support at Abington that I was able to talk to the head of uh, Schreyer at Abington.
Zelnnetta 00:13:24 And even though I wasn't a shyer student, he was giving me pointers on how I can, you know, better my application, tell me a lot more about the program itself, especially pertaining to Abington and then also pertaining to um, bridging resources from New Park to Abington. And I was just sold from there and everyone was really supportive in my decision and it made it such so much easier to just go in kind of not knowing too much. Like as a, like I said as a junior, like I, at first I had jitters 'cause I'm like, I'm a junior and these people have been a lot of my uh, classmates or colleagues, they've been inre since freshman year. I have to play catch up. I have to learn how to time manage again 'cause my classes were gonna be fairly different and there was gonna be more expectations but everyone was so supportive. And I just love the fact that the program was able to provide that for me as a junior. So.
Sean 00:14:15 Well I'm glad it all worked out that you graduated with honors and you're here talking to me today. And for those listening whenever you're listening to this now you mentioned a group that you were involved with on campus. Can you talk about both what you were involved with at Abington? Maybe you can talk a little bit more about that specific group and any others. And also just kind of the general, what is it like to be an involved student at a campus other than University Park? 'cause I think there can be a little bit of a different culture around that between you park and our Commonwealth campuses. I lived it firsthand. You did too and I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Zelnnetta 00:14:49 Absolutely. So one thing I loved about Abington was the fact that any club possible was student led. We obviously had advisors to really mentor us and push us in the right direction, but it was all student led. And I love that because looking back at my experience, it helped so much as a professional and it helps with professional development because you could do project management for any type of company. You know, even if that's not your field of expertise because you have led a a whole, like a whole club by yourself, well not by yourself but with students really helps you with that professional development. Professional development. Funny story in how I got involved in community outreach workers. My freshman year I was super anxious about just school, college. I was really that kid who was really into their studies. I believe it or not, you can ask my roommates if <laugh>, I would be in my room for eight hours on the weekend studying.
Zelnnetta 00:15:49 And if it wasn't the weekend during the weekdays I would be in the room door closed studying. And I really didn't understand that social and academic, you know, you need to have a social life and you need to have an academic life and you have to have that balance. Did not no type of balance whatsoever. Everything was about academics, academics, academics. Because I was so worried about my keeping my grades up. I'm like, this is college. Like this is a big deal. I don't know, you know, I don't know what's the expectations. I'm still trying to get a feel for everything. So with that being said, I did not get involved with anything. And I think it wasn't until sophomore year when I was just like, you know, I'm miserable. Like I am miserable. I could honestly, the way I studied, I could probably recite my biology book textbook word for word.
Zelnnetta 00:16:38 Um, and I, and I was just like, I need to find something else to do besides like I need to get the full college experience. It didn't help that my roommates were kind of the same way 'cause we were all freshmen trying to figure it out. So they were kind of the same way. So we're all timid to go just explore. But Abington was a campus where I kid you not every single day there was something going on for the students to get involved in Martin Luther King Day. I think 2016 I'm dating myself. My goodness. Um, I seen on I think a newsletter or something I think on the Abington website basically saying a day of service. And for me I was someone as a high school student who was always involved in community service. So when I seen that they were doing some Martin Luther King Day, I was like, you know what, I'm gonna get involved and it's my day off, why not?
Zelnnetta 00:17:23 Um, it happened to be community outreach workers and we ended up going to um, around inner city Philly and we ended up kind of renovating a church, like cleaning it up, um, painting the walls, really just helping this church like get its uh, get going essentially. Um, 'cause it was a little, um, it needed some work done basically. So we helped with that and we even helped with, um, we even helped, they had a movie night after we did the renovations and we had um, basically, uh, participate in the movie night and we got the kids like popcorn, we made them popcorn and stuff like that. And I was like, this is the type of club and the type of stuff I am used to doing and I wanna continue doing as uh, a college student. And immediately from there I was sold. I mean I was really grateful for this opportunity working with Cal because it really made me find my home outside of my home.
Zelnnetta 00:18:12 I'm so used to being home in New York that I'm a New York native and I was able to find my niche, like I said, outside of my niche in in, in Philly. So like even now when people talk about Philly, I'm like, people think I'm a native and I'm not. But I'm like, I'm not mad. Um, so you know, and the people in the club were so supportive and so open and so welcoming. And then I just really got involved in student led organizations. I also helped out with planning of hon a little bit. Um, B S U I was involved in as well. So, and everyone's so close knit 'cause we're so used to working together. We're always trying to do partnerships with each club and because, you know, we spend so much time in, I forgot I think it's the lions den, I believe we spent so much time in there trying to plan our clubs and plan.
Zelnnetta 00:18:58 So it was just like, it was a close knit family. And I just love the fact that Abington had so many opportunities for students to get involved. Like there was not one club that, like, there was a club for everybody. And if you said, oh there's not a club for me, one, you're probably fibbing and two, you have every opportunity to create a club, which is amazing as well. So there's, there was something for everybody and creating the club wasn't even like when I asked friends, 'cause someone did uh, I think it was like an African student union, she created that on our own and she told me the process was pretty seamless 'cause you had that support there. So it was really awesome just to have that support at Abington with the student led clubs.
Sean 00:19:37 So just a quick editorial note, for those of you who are you park folks? Uh, I'm assuming that Z the lion's den is a kind of multipurpose common room space. You're shaking your head yes, yes. In in your main building. Not to be confused with the bar here in State College. So just wanna, just wanna throw that out there for those listening. No, not the
Zelnnetta 00:19:57 Bar <laugh>.
Sean 00:19:59 So earlier you mentioned you saw the thesis requirement when you were doing your research on applying as a current student to the college and it was a little intimidating, but obviously you're sitting here talking to me on following the God, which means you completed your thesis. So I'd love to hear not only what you wrote about but also how you overcame that intimidation factor and kind of went through the process.
Zelnnetta 00:20:23 I think for me personally, going into as a Schreyer student as a junior and you only have like what junior year, senior year left. And by senior year, like half a senior you need to be finished with your thesis. I was like, oh man, what did I get myself into? And I'm looking at my colleagues and well my cohort and they, like I said, they all started I believe freshman year and I'm like, you guys had two years ahead of me. Like someone gimme some pointers, someone help me please. Abington provides support. So we took classes that were not like our honors classes, which was very interesting and I really appreciate now I remember sending some of the courses, I was just like, oh why am I learning about hemmingway? But now I, I'm a Hemmingway fan so thank you <laugh>. Some of the courses that we took were like really curated to just research writing, knowing how to um, use the Penn State Library and how to find articles and stuff like that.
Zelnnetta 00:21:21 I think it was like two courses I took where one was really just strictly how to use the Penn State Library, which helped tremendously even after um, college essentially. And then I think another course was more so it was the same way. It was the same way. So we had courses that would help us with the thesis essentially. And we would meet every week or every other week and that we would have the professor check in our progress, which was really good because it definitely helped with the accountability. 'cause you're really doing this project on your own and although you have deadlines, really those minor milestones to complete this project is on you. So just having that accountability definitely helped because I remember times when we would come in class and everybody was like scrambling to make sure they had everything done because we knew that our professor would ask us questions about our thesis.
Zelnnetta 00:22:09 If you didn't know it, you would feel a little embarrassed. So having that accountability was really good. And then really in general, um, a lot of the professors, well like for me for psychology, they were familiar with Schreyer. So for us we had a honors advisor and then we also had our major advisor. 'cause probably wherever you were doing whatever you were doing your thesis in would be primarily in your, your major. So my, my psychology advisor, he actually knew about tri so he knew the expectations. He knew kind of what my thesis needed to look like at the end, how to edit it and all that good jazz. So that was really helpful as well. So my thesis was on perception and sensation. It was called hearing the vision. So really me, I am someone who's really involved in any way I can help any type of community, disadvantaged community.
Zelnnetta 00:23:03 So my project was really on a broader scale, was looking to help those with visual impairments kind of see their world but like hear their world, right? Because they have visual impairments. So hearing their world. So essentially what we wanted to do, the goal was to create some type of device that would help those with visual impairments kind of hear objects in a room. Now it's very super abstractive because we worked with engineers. They created a device and basically the device would have certain, um, sounds for certain shapes. So then we would have psych students come in and we would teach them like a training on how to discriminate between the sounds and the shapes or the sounds for each shape. And then we would test them and see if like the shape kind of align the sound aligned with the shape that they were trained on.
Zelnnetta 00:23:53 And that's kind of how we were seeing if people were able to distinguish between the shapes. And that's how we were able to test sensation and perception of these students. And then eventually we actually were trying to work with, um, I forgot exactly what the institute was called, but it was an institute for those with visual impairments and, and do this project a step further with those with visual impairments. Unfortunately our results did not come out as expected, um, because it was so abstractive. And then also like when you think about it, the people that we were testing the, the participants, they didn't have visual impairments. They know what certain shapes look like And then trying to explain that to someone with a visual impairment, especially if they were born blind, it's a little bit more difficult. Like how do you, how do you describe the color red to someone who's never seen it?
Zelnnetta 00:24:40 So we, we, we kind of had a debrief on that and we decided not to move forward with the device for those with visual impairments 'cause there was much more research we had to get to. There's so much more research that had to be done. But essentially that was my thesis a very interesting because it also taught me about intercommunication and, and communication between different disciplines. So like sometimes my, my advisor and I, we would be on one page 'cause we are thinking like psychologists and then we're trying to relay or communicate to engineers and they're thinking like engineers and you don't even realize how that interaction is super different and you have to change communication. So it definitely helped my communication skills because I had to change my communication and I had to ensure that whatever I was relaying was comprehensible and that, you know, it made sense to the engineers. So that was my, my thesis. It was really, it was really fun. It was a really different experience for me.
Sean 00:25:43 You just heard some great advice from our scholar alumni on completing the honors thesis. A great resource that we have here in the college is the thesis bootcamp. If you're a scholar in your last semester, you'll have gotten an email from Deborah Rogers, our coordinator of academic advising and services about this program. The thesis bootcamp is an opportunity to have quiet, dedicated space for you to write your thesis. The benefit is that you'll be surrounded by other scholars who are in a similar place and you can lean on them for advice and support during this process. College staff will also be there to help you answer questions. College staff will also be there to help answer questions about the process formatting and other questions that you may have about the honors thesis. With that, let's get back into our conversation here on following the Gong. Now, in addition to writing your thesis last semester of college, most folks are concerned with what's that next step? Is it graduate school, professional school, or likely trying to find a job? Can you talk to us what your first role was right out of college and how you went about securing that? So
Zelnnetta 00:26:59 My first role was I decided to pursue a post-bac program at Loyola Marymount University in California. Essentially before I even applied for a post-bac program, I didn't even know that existed. It was just me just kind of talking to friends that were in the pre-med or pre-dental track. And you know, I was just in a dilemma. I was just like, you know, I need to finish my, my, I need to finish graduating 2019 'cause I wanna get my schreyer credit. You know, we worked hard for it. I dev, that's something that I wanna do. And I was like, but also that means I'm delaying my matriculation to, uh, medical school because I won't be able to apply 'cause I don't have the, the courses needed. So my friend actually told me about post-bac program and I decided to apply, apply to other places locally. But me as a person, I love to travel and who doesn't wanna try like try living in California.
Zelnnetta 00:27:51 So I was just like, you know what, I'm gonna go for it. And once I got accepted I was just like, I'm going to Cali, like Cali dreaming. Um, but prior to that I actually was looking at neuropsychology graduate programs and I wanted do a huge shout out to Dr. Benfield, who actually he spoke so highly of me to one of his colleagues, um, at a university. I forgot exactly which one and they actually reached out to me and offered me a, a spot as a um, PhD candidate for a neuropsychology program. And it was like a tough decision because it was a full ride and everything. I didn't even apply. I didn't take a G R E and it was an awesome opportunity but I had to think to myself, will I be satisfied in this career? You know, I didn't even get a taste of what neuropsychology looks like because I did not, um, go to U Park and experience that major.
Zelnnetta 00:28:43 And I always knew I wanted to go into medicine for sure. So I was just like, this is a great opportunity. You know, I, it's kind of the easier decision and like I said, I like to challenge myself and I said, you know what? I'm gonna take this extra step, even if it's gonna take me longer. Patience is the virtue I'm gonna pursue medicine. So I decided to move forward the post-bac program and I did the post post-BAC program for about a year and a half. And um, with the program I was also working, I was a chemistry teaching assistant, my nonprofit and we'll get into that later. I was always just a student who was used to just working even in senior year. I mean as I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do, I did work into work in my field. So I worked in the behavioral health as a personal care assistant, working with those on the spectrum at a school sys school setting. Um, I also worked at Ruby Tuesday as a server and then I also worked as a peer advisor. So I was used to kind of managing time and I was just like, whatever I set my mind to do it, it's doable. Like I proved to myself, I was able to do it senior year. So here I am. <laugh>.
Sean 00:29:51 Well it certainly sounds like you were grinding and you alluded to this and what I wanna dive into now is you started almost some other friends and colleagues, a nonprofit called Rebuild the Block. Can you talk about what drew you all to start that, what it does and what you're hoping to achieve with it?
Zelnnetta 00:30:09 Absolutely. So Rebuild the block started in June, 2020. My old college roommate and I, so this is when I was in California and she was still in the Philadelphia area. And when we were roommates, before I even get into that, we always talked about when we're in the height of our careers, we always pride ourselves of being leaders. So we're like, when we're in the height of our careers and we're leaders and pioneers in our careers, we definitely wanna do something to give back to the community. The community has done so much for us. She's not a Philly native, but like same situation as many people think that we're Philly natives 'cause we talk so highly about this area and how this area has taught us so much and ha uh, helped us grow as adults and professionals. And we're like, you know, we wanna get back to community, but we need to have certain resources.
Zelnnetta 00:30:55 We need to have the finances, we need to have the time, maybe we need to have the credibility, et cetera. So we always talked about it and you know, around June, 2020, kind of like height of Covid, we were just seeing how much Covid affected just about everyone, but specifically black o uh, black business owners, you know, the Philadelphia area has a lot of black businesses, black wealth and just seeing how down they were because of this financial burden of covid everyone, especially those mom and pop shops that don't know how to, they're not, they're not online or they're not virtual yet because they may not have the resources to do so or they may not know how, 'cause they're a little bit older. Just seeing how that has had affected them. And then on top of that, just seeing the civil unrest, the response, the civil unrest, um, after the past of George Floyd or the murder of George Floyd we're seeing businesses in Philadelphia, um, experiencing property damage.
Zelnnetta 00:31:55 And that just hurt our heart too because it's like, not only are these businesses struggling financially now, it's like we're adding an extra like, you know, uh, an extra kind of, I'm gonna say bomb, essentially on top of what they already have to go through. And just thinking about the history of how much it takes for a black owner to kind of start up their business is, is is much more than some of their other counterparts. So just seeing that was just like really heartbreaking. But Alexis and I are really big on, we can talk all day until our faces turn blue, red, whatever color color you want it to be, what are we gonna do about it? And she was like, you know what, I'm tired of people talking. I'm tired of seeing these depressing posts on social media. Everyone's just all talk. Let's do something about this.
Zelnnetta 00:32:45 And she's like, how would you feel if I made a GoFundMe page for, and this is before we had a name GoFundMe page for these businesses. And I said, you know what? That'd be a great idea. I'm like, I don't know what's gonna happen. She's like, okay, we're just gonna throw a number out there. We want a million dollars. I was like, you know what, that's fine. We'll just throw that out. We don't know what's gonna happen. And really people were receptive to our message, you know, they were receptive with us just being actionable, taking that initiative to do something. And people just donating, we had businesses from overseas businesses too, just like creating like a, like merchandise and they, and they would use their proceeds and donate it to us and it was just like, oh, people are really receptive to what we're doing.
Zelnnetta 00:33:24 Like people just want somebody kind of to pioneer something. And from there we just were receiving tremendous report, uh, excuse me, support I believe two weeks or a a weekend we made a hundred thousand dollars and then it was $200,000. And I was just like scratching my head. I'm like, this is amazing but Alexis, I do not need the i r s coming for me. So we're gonna have to become some type of organization. And we decided to go with the nonprofit. And from there that's where Rebuild the Block was born and we're still up and running.
Sean 00:33:56 I think that is just tremendous that you, in an era of a lot of talking, decided to take some very concrete action. So my hat that I'm not actually wearing is off to you now. You, you decided to start a nonprofit. How did you like in, in just a very quick rundown 'cause I know it's a complex process, but just like some quick hits. How did you actually like go about doing that? Because that sounds like something a Schreyer scholar listening might wanna do themselves for something that they care about.
Zelnnetta 00:34:25 Absolutely. So we've started a nonprofit. The biggest thing is one, get a team. Even if um, you have a team of friends and family, that's the most important thing. Like Issa Rae, she talks about when she started her production, she brought everybody that was kind of on the same level as her and brought them up. And that's kind of what we did. We were like, I don't know any professionals in the field of nonprofit. I don't know any professionals in the field of X, Y, and Z but I know that my friends and family will be supportive and they were very knowledgeable in whatever sector we put them in for rebuild block. Um, but starting a nonprofit process is definitely lathe <laugh>, but for anybody who wants to start it, think about starting at L L C, really you wanna have that mission. So what's your mission?
Zelnnetta 00:35:11 For us, we wanna make sure that we are in general just creating, um, generational wealth for the black community. And we're starting that with these business owners and and providing with resources and bridging them with resources. You wanna have a vision, just a small, you know, statement of what you do. Couple, I would say just a sentence long if possible. You kind of just really wanna have a business plan because when you're applying for that nonprofit, they wanna know where's the money going, what is your nonprofit known for? What are you doing? Are you, you know, um, what areas are you covering? You wanna have an address like that basic, like if you were to start up just any regular business, you wanna have that basic information. So the biggest thing I would say most important have a team. 'cause you cannot do it alone, even if it's a team of family and friends.
Zelnnetta 00:35:59 Get someone who is a, at least a little bit knowledgeable in the area that you're gonna place them in. And um, secondly, have a business plan that's gonna save you so much time when you're doing anything with the I R S or applying to be a nonprofit 'cause they want to know this information. And if you don't have it, you will get plenty of emails about, oh how do you do this? I would say lastly one big one too I almost forgot is, um, wherever you are going to register this nonprofit look online for um, pro bono lawyers, that's gonna help tremendously because we had a business plan but our lawyer was like, okay, let me help and revise this. And that helps save you a lot of headache, heartache and time. So those are the big three things I would say.
Sean 00:36:45 As you were talking, it definitely sounds like a lot of the advice for non-profit. It's probably similar to a for-profit entrepreneurial venture as well. And our students in the honors college are very entrepreneurial. So is there any other advice from running it now that you've started it from running it, that you would wanna share for students who are entrepreneurial? Whether it's a for-profit venture or a non-profit venture? I
Zelnnetta 00:37:07 Would say the biggest thing is, especially if you're an entrepreneur and you're anything like me, just do it. Just do it. Um, for a lot of us we have imposter syndrome and we tend to just kind of get in our head and say, oh, I can't do this because I I'm not confident enough or I can't do this 'cause I don't have the resources. Listen, I am, I was a pre-med student so I was still a broke college student and I raised $200,000. You have the power to do it. I'm very big on my saying is step into your power. Just do it even when you don't know what's gonna happen. And that's the beauty of entrepreneurship. It's a learning experience and that's why I love entrepreneurship because I'm someone like I I previously mentioned, I love to learn anything I can learn, I'm, I'm on it.
Zelnnetta 00:37:52 So this journey is a journey and you're gonna learn every step of way entrepreneurship. There are gonna be times where things are failing. That's part of the learning process. You learn from it, you know, my biggest advice is just really just start it, start it with intention and while you're starting it, just plan a little bit. Um, for a build block we started kind of as an emergency model. We were just sick and tired of people talking and we were like, you know what? I'm tired of kind of just being in this position where nothing, everyone's talking about it and nothing is getting better. I'm just tired of being depressed and seeing these things and you know, there's no solutions. So with that being said, we start as an emergency model. We are still learning how to run a nonprofit. We are still learning how to be entrepreneurs, how to be co-founders, how to be business oriented people.
Zelnnetta 00:38:39 So definitely take the time to plan, but being intentional with setting dates on when to get things done. I'm actually working on a new project where I'm trying to start a new business. So I'm learning that as well where my imposter syndrome gets in my, in my brain sometimes and and makes me a little bit hesitant. But I set dates, I'm like this date, by this date I need to have filed A L L C by this date. I need to file a trademark. So you are being intentional, but while you're being, uh, while you have those dates in place, you are taking the time to plan. So the biggest thing is just do it. Be intentional and ask for help. There's nothing wrong with asking for help And like I said, even if you don't have the resource to do to if you think you may not have the resources to do certain things, just your passion alone is what gets people to wanna hear your story and gets, people wanna donate or give you a grant or give you a loan. There's so much resources out there where they're definitely accessible to you. So definitely look for them.
Sean 00:39:36 And you hit on a common theme of the show that I think basically every alum who has been on here has said is don't be afraid to ask for help. Whether that's if you're in the college and you need help with your thesis or career services or you're starting an entrepreneurial venture. So help is usually there if you asked for it. So I think that is great advice. So on top of rebuilding the block and this hopefully soon to be able to be shared business venture, I look forward to hearing more about that down the road. You are also applying for med school, which is its own full-time job. How is that going? What advice from somebody who's living it right now, would you give to a scholar who's maybe a, you know, a year or two away from that themselves? Biggest
Zelnnetta 00:40:20 Thing, like I said is do it <laugh>. You know, even when it, when people tell you, oh my goodness, how are you gonna be able to apply to med school while running a nonprofit? And I'm using myself an example obviously, but how are you gonna apply to med school? Take the mcat, run a nonprofit, be a chemistry teaching assistant, finish biochemistry in the summer. Just do it. Just do it. And, and also be be um, give yourself grace too. Because for me in my situation I had to work. Um, I also was working as a registered behavior technician as well and I had to work in order for me to fund kind of my med school application career. 'cause honestly that cost a lot of money. Um, but also I would, I would definitely say for anybody, 'cause I'm learning this biggest lesson, if you have the resources, do it and you're able to do it, focus solely on the mcat, like focus solely on the mcat.
Zelnnetta 00:41:17 That's my biggest, that's my biggest advice. Another one big one is when you're, when you are um, studying for the mcat, do a lot of practice problems, um, review content as you're doing the practice problems. Because for me, I was reviewing content my first half, the studying 'cause I studied for six months and then my second half I was doing practice problems. But I recognized that I learned so much more when I was, um, doing practice problems. And then I would go back into the content 'cause I'm looking at stuff I don't know and I'm diving deeper on like how, how like I don't know this, how can I further understand this? And I made sure I understood it by the end of, you know, my study session. So definitely do that. But just in general, the process is very, very nerve wracking. Give yourself grace, have a support system.
Zelnnetta 00:42:06 Have a community of people who are kind of going through the same thing. I'm very glad that I was able to have friends that were going through the same thing and we would study together, have study groups to help, um, keep you accountable, but you're gonna need that support group. Especially you're someone who's as involved in me as me, you're gonna need that support system, um, that understands kind of what's going on. Secondly, planning as well. You're definitely gonna have to plan your days. I still plan my days essentially. Planning is some is something that's gonna be really important, really big. But like I said, the biggest thing is give yourself some grace. Do it even when people tell you can't. And you know, even if you don't get into the cycle, you anticipate it's okay. Like, uh, there's a video I seen kind of on TikTok and Twitter where um, they ask medical students, you know, how many gap years did you take? And some people said five and some people said four. And it's just like they still made it. There's still a seat at the table for you. As long as you're passionate and you're ready to be a physician, it's going to, it's gonna convey through your, your personal statement, your interviews and stuff like that. Just do it. No matter what someone says, the biggest thing they can tell you is no. And that's it. And you keep trying.
Sean 00:43:19 Great advice. And at this point I wanna pivot to some reflective questions. You're obviously a younger alumna, you're a recent graduate, but how do you feel like your experience as a scholar who graduated from a Commonwealth campus were unique and prepared you for your journey so far?
Zelnnetta 00:43:35 I think kind of graduating from a Commonwealth campus definitely helped with networking because for me, I was afraid of going to U Perc 'cause I didn't wanna be a number for me, I, I I struggle sometimes with, if I'm in a big crowd or in a class with a lot of students, I kind of just shy away from even making myself noticeable. Um, I'm kind of like that person. I, I always say I'm like that person who's the underdog or I like, I'm the shadow worker. Like I, I work hard behind the scenes just to make, you know, the people that are being seen make it happen, if that makes sense. So I definitely learned while being in the Commonwealth Camp campus, how to network eff uh, efficiently and effectively because I made my name known, I made my work be known. Um, and it, which definitely helps in a professional setting, especially when you're a nonprofit owner essentially, or co-founder because a lot of our funding comes from reaching out to the community, reaching out to certain businesses, corporate whatever type of businesses, schools, institutions. And I would say even for me, just having that close knit with Penn State definitely has helped create relationships and, um, hopefully programs, hint, hint, um, with, you know, the Penn State Network. So definitely the, the Commonwealth Campus definitely taught me about networking. I think that's super important as and as we know, the Penn State Network is, my goodness, tremendous. So just attending Penn State period, you're going to get a lot more, um, opportunities for sure
Sean 00:45:04 Couldn't have said it better myself. Talking about the power of the Penn State Network. So z what would you say is your biggest success to date?
Zelnnetta 00:45:12 That is amazing question. <laugh>. I would say my big biggest success would have to be my child. A k a Revo, the block. Um, because honestly, I think the common theme, you know, as we're listening to this, as you guys are listening to this, is just my life is unconventional. I just end up anywhere. Like, um, really quickly about me, I've moved from New York, went to school in Pennsylvania, I went to school in California and now I'm in Vegas. Like who knows where Z is gonna end up next <laugh>. But um, really was um, rebuild the block because I never in a million years imagined myself starting a nonprofit. And I believe at the time was 22, 23 or probably 23. And I was just like, I'm 23 years old with a nonprofit who has over a hundred thousand dollars and I'm helping the community. Like I'm making a real impact.
Zelnnetta 00:46:07 And that was the biggest thing. My biggest kind of life goal is to be a healer in any type of sector. Whether that's medicine, whether that's, you know, um, using my platform to help people, community settings for build block, et cetera. I just wanna be a healer in general. So the fact that I was actually able to make an impact at 23 was just mind blowing to me. So that's really one of my biggest success stories because I feel like this thing that I thought would be a lifelong journey starts at 23. So I just don't limit myself anymore. 'cause I'm like, what could I do? Like imagine what I'm gonna do at 30 since I'm almost hitting 30, imagine what I could do at 30. So I just don't limit myself. And I definitely believe rebuild the block is definitely something I like to say divine intervention because it happened at the right time and it definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things.
Zelnnetta 00:47:00 Like right now for sure. It has pushed my, pushed my voice to be, um, to get more into advocacy. Like I, right now I'm doing a project, like an independent research project where it's really talking about advocacy for women's rights. Um, I'm also working with an organization where we do advocacy for social justice, um, or policies that affect black and brown communities and advocating for, um, people to understand and, and know these policies and how it affects, you know, themselves and affects the community. So it really has pushed me in so many different sectors, um, and I'm really grateful for that.
Sean 00:47:35 On the flip side, what would you say is the biggest learning moment that you've had so far in what you took from it?
Zelnnetta 00:47:41 Entrepreneurship is a learning journey in itself. So for me, every day is a learning moment. Actually, I kid you not, I'm now learning how to use Canva and now no one could tell me anything <laugh>. So that was a learning moment. But I would say the biggest theme for me is really limitations. So as I previously mentioned, again, I've never would have imagined myself being a co-founder of a nonprofit. And I really imagined myself, when people ask me, where do you see yourself 10 years from now? I'm like, I ex I see myself being a, a neurosurgeon and I still do, but I limit myself because I could take that a step further and say I see myself as a neuro neurosurgeon who's also a leader in healthcare policy that is making changes within the healthcare system or someone who is creating, um, clinics for, um, clinics and well disadvantaged socioeconomic, um, areas.
Zelnnetta 00:48:39 So I definitely, with having rebuild a block come into fruition, essentially I'm, I don't limit myself anymore. And I think that's the biggest learning curve is there's no limit to what I can do, especially now just looking at back at the things that I am doing and the things I have been doing there. There's no limit. And, and also what I've learned too is everyone's story is different and unique and my, I feel like my story is very unique and stop trying. For me, I always try to put my fit myself into a box sometimes because I'm looking at my friends and they're in certain disciplines and they're, you know, they're in corporate and that's what they do. And then when people ask me, Z what do you do? And I'm like, uh, and you know, I don't put myself into a box. I don't put, I don't limit myself.
Zelnnetta 00:49:25 I don't put myself in a box and that's okay. Isn't okay to be non-traditional. I think that's what makes me me and makes me unique. So definitely be out, you know, put yourself out there and, and it's okay if there is a path that you're being pushed to move through and that path may have not been something that has been done before. It's okay, make your own path. And I think that's super important. People need to learn, people need to appreciate, 'cause there's so much beauty in learning how to navigate that, that path that no one has created before. 'cause you're creating it, uh, you're creating a path for other people to follow you.
Sean 00:49:59 You've mentioned a couple people by name. I wanna know, are there any professors or friends from your scholar days that you wanted to give a quick shout out to?
Zelnnetta 00:50:07 Oh my goodness. Okay. Yes. Let me, let me go through it quickly. Dr. Kathleen Fagan, Dr. Benfield, uh, Dr. Ruth Dianca, Alexis Acaa, my co-founder and I'm probably gonna miss a lot of other people and they're gonna yell at me. Tracy Reed, oh my goodness, she helps so much. She's actually involved in student engagement, but that's all I got right now and if I did not mention you, you know, it's all love <laugh>.
Sean 00:50:33 So you've dropped a lot of great nuggets of wisdom throughout our conversation. Is there anything else that you wanted to share advice wise that did not organically come up in our conversation so far?
Zelnnetta 00:50:43 So the biggest thing is for someone like me, I like to say I'm very multifaceted and I would say you hear it all the time before you go into college. People are ask people, you'll ask, you know, what's something that I should learn while I'm in college? You know, what's the biggest hardships? And you hear this answer all the time, time management, but you don't understand how important time management is until you get into the workforce or just in, even in college. It's obviously, it's, it's obviously, um, important, but the workforce is, it's a whole different B ball game. So you can still do as many interests as you want. Remember there's only 24 hours in a day. But as long as you manage, manage time, manage efficiently, effectively, you could still be able to do those interests that you would, um, you would, excuse me.
Zelnnetta 00:51:34 Even though, um, there's only 24 hours in a day, if you time manage efficiently and effectively, you're still able to participate in any interest that you want. Someone like me, I like to say I'm very well-rounded in a lot of different areas and because I time manage, I'm able to, you know, ignite my passions and be fulfilled by my passions because I'm still actively, excuse me, I'm still actively involved in them. I never would've lived my life and say, I wish I would've done this because I didn't ha I didn't do it 'cause I was focusing on that. I, I try to make sure I include everything in my schedule, but also another big key point is rest is super important too. Rest, uh, self-care. One new quote that I've been um, abiding by and I just never thought of it is, our ancestors' biggest, wildest dreams were to rest. And I think that's super important too. Definitely set time out to rest because if you are not right within, how can you, you know, give out essentially. So make sure you're resting as well. But definitely time management is a big thing. Like execute it while you're in college because it's gonna help you 10 times more when you're postgraduate.
Sean 00:52:42 If a Schreyer Staller wanted to connect with you and keep this conversation going, pick your brain further, what's the best way for them to get ahold of you? So
Zelnnetta 00:52:50 The best way would be LinkedIn for sure. Um, it's just my name, I think it's my full name. Zelnnetta. Z E L N N E T T A, Clark.
Sean 00:52:58 And our final question as is tradition here on following the Gone. If you were a flavor of Burke creamier ice cream, which would you be? And most importantly as a scholar alumna, why would you be that flavor? I
Zelnnetta 00:53:10 Love this question because one, I did not get the honor to ever try that ice cream, but I was looking on the website, so I did my research. I would definitely be butter pecan. I mean the s'mores one was definitely a runner up, but I just feel like as Butter pecan, it's just so timeless. It's so classy and like everyone likes it. It just never ages. And I just feel like that's just me. <laugh>.
Sean 00:53:36 Well you said you're in Vegas right now. Hopefully at some point you'll be able to get back out here to Pennsylvania and actually get to try some Penn State Burkee Creamery Ice Cream. This is not sponsored by them, but certainly opportunity if anybody there is listening so that way you can have that last piece of your Penn State experience. 'cause I'm sure some folks are listening going, what You've never had Creamery ice cream. Hopefully get that fixed for you soon.
Zelnnetta 00:54:01 Do you mind if I add one more thing? Awesome. So another thing, rebuild the block. I just wanna promote, rebuild the Block. We are looking for business partnerships, volunteers, anybody who is willing to get involved, that's something that we are always open to. So you can look us up on LinkedIn at Rebuild the Block Corp. You can follow our Instagram at Rebuild Block Corp as well. And also our website ed, uh, rebuild block.org. You can always volunteer on there. And I'm just gonna leave you guys one quick quote quote, because I felt like we talked about stepping into our power and initiating. So this is a quote by me, step into your power, start creating and building for our own because people like US history has shown repeatedly that no one else will. So step into your power
Sean 00:54:43 Z thank you so much for joining. I had a great time listening to all of your thoughts. I hope you the listener did as well. So thank you for joining us here today on Following the Gong.
Zelnnetta 00:54:52 Thank you guys for having me.
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