Zephanii Smith was introduced to the world of leadership and social justice activism as an elementary school student through her local NAACP's Youth Empowerment Summit. She ultimately served as President of the Stockton Youth Council and the California-Hawaii Youth & College Division prior to being elected to the NAACP's National Board of Directors. During her time as local and regional Presidents, her leadership focused 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.
Zephanii also has experience in youth development initiatives offered by the local, state, and federal governments. 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 International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma recipient, an ambassador with People to People International’s Student Ambassador program, and a participant in the Global Youth Forum. She returned to the Global Youth Forum in 2014 as a keynote speaker and offered training to students representing nine different countries.
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. 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. She presented her findings at the 2015 Opportunity Nation Summit in Washington, D.C.
Zephanii, who is 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 and a Master of Arts Degree in Educational Administration and Leadership from the University of the Pacific in May 2015. She now works as a committee consultant to the California State Legislature.