At a young age, Zana was captivated by stories. They gave her a window into the experiences of others. And through those windows, she was exposed to so much beauty in life, but also to the injustices that systems create. Zana grew to understand that stories are a bridge–a bridge to perspective, understanding, change, and love. She sought to understand how she could better use stories to help remove inequities for people, and ultimately chose to pursue a degree in strategic communication from Washington State University (WSU). There, she learned the power of words, and developed techniques to reach and connect with people from all walks of life.
After graduating, Zana knew she wanted to continue to use her education to help people live their best lives. Zana’s passion for policy was first discovered in her next role in communications at Seattle University (SU). Zana learned how hard it could be to understand a policy or even know that it exists. By hearing students tell their stories, she learned that an individual’s access to opportunities and experiences can dictate how they are impacted by a policy. She worked hard to make information readily available, accessible, and digestible for the students she served, so that they might succeed academically, and beyond.
While working at SU, Zana decided to pursue a Master of Nonprofit Leadership. In her course on policy advocacy, she learned about Washington state’s legislature, the three legs of the advocacy stool, and the importance of participating in policy. She joined a community of advocates working on the Heal Act, an environmental justice bill. Through this process, Zana observed the process of building a story bridge. She saw how advocates broke down different components of the bill and found aspects that would connect very different groups including opponents to the idea of the bill. She knew this was how she wanted to use her communication skills.
Zana first learned about the Pathwaves Fellowship through her policy advocacy course professor, Jon Gould. Although early childhood policy was a new area for her, Zana was eager to use communications and her higher education experience to help directly influence its policy. Zana is also excited to share and create space with other leaders of color.
As Zana begins her work with her placement site, OneAmerica, she has two hopes. First, that no child loses sight of their culture to fit into the system, but that the system adapts to fit them and their unique needs. Second, to make our legislative system more accessible to others. Zana shares, “I want to equip communities with the knowledge of our legislative process and to help them to see they have the power to create change”.