NC State University senior Emily Zucker believes in standing up for the little guy, giving voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.
This desire comes from Zucker’s own experience growing up with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition that can impair the ability to communicate and interact with others. “For much of my life, I felt like I wasn’t heard,” she says now. “Although the truth is, I wasn’t brave enough to speak up; I didn’t think that the world wanted to hear my thoughts and ideas.”
That all changed when Zucker got to NC State. The perennial dean’s list student — the first in her family to go to college — dove into her studies and a wide range of extracurricular activities, and quickly learned how valuable and important her voice could actually be. Over time, she built the confidence to share, and realized how much she had to contribute to the world.
At NC State, Zucker’s passion for serving others took an unexpected turn when a fellow student, a member of the Lumbee Tribe, introduced her to the Native American community. Although not Native American herself, Zucker immediately felt a strong connection with members of this community because they had a similar experience of feeling misunderstood.
She soon joined a Native American sorority and student association and began singing with the university’s Native American drum group. She even spent an Alternate Service Break working with the Tlingit community in coastal Alaska. This summer she is interning with the Coharie Tribe in Clinton, North Carolina, helping to develop a business plan to market their river cleanup services.
Zucker, a math and statistics double major who will graduate in May 2017, has also been active in math and science organizations on campus and participated in a Research Experience for Undergraduates through the math department. As an ambassador for the Career Development Center, she helps underclassman prepare for internships and jobs. This fall Zucker, who grew up in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, will fulfill another long-time dream when she spends a semester studying and living in Africa.
One activity that demonstrates how far Zucker has come in sharing her voice is her involvement in the student organization PriorityOne Expression, where NC State students meet for weekly conversations around meaningful topics meant to make a difference in their lives. The group partnered with the Career Development Center to host a campuswide event that brought together small groups of students to talk about their passions and how they could apply those to their career paths.
Scholarship support made it possible to seize so many opportunities at NC State, Zucker explained. “Receiving the Mary Alice and Hubert V. Park Scholarship has really helped me feel secure financially so I can dedicate my time to the service of others and pursue my passion for advocacy. Instead of thinking, ‘How will I pay for my classes?’ I’m thinking, ‘How can I make a difference in someone’s life?’”
Zucker is already contemplating how she will serve others after graduation. She is thinking of spending a year or two in an organization like the Peace Corps or Teach for America before deciding on the next step. She can envision applying the analytical skills she has honed in her statistics and math studies to help people and contribute to the world.
Whatever path she chooses, serving others will definitely be an important part. At NC State, Zucker has found her own voice, and she will always strive to help others do the same.