"A community-minded individual who happens to be an outstanding student and athlete."
From an early age, Ziyah’s parents were particularly conscious of dismantling the bias that too-often pigeonholes girls of color in sport. They wanted doors to open. “Any sport with a stick is what we’re gonna do,” Rashida recalls. An African-American girl playing golf would likely go places that others could not go, they surmised. “Every sport under the sun—she tried it. She was kind of good at all of them—well, not good. When she was playing soccer she couldn’t really get the ball in the net, but she could go from one end to the other really fast.”
Finally in seventh grade, Ziyah suggested trying track. Her mother was reluctant. Ziyah had been playing golf since age six, and they’d expected she would continue in high school. “Maybe I should just try it,” Ziyah persisted.
“She went out one time and I was like, ‘Whoa... okay... maybe this is what she’s gonna do.’”
Ziyah’s middle school, Capitol Hill Day School, didn’t have a track team. Her family found a local, community-centered youth track club in DC called FASST. Club coach Darryl Hamilton notes how hard Ziyah works both in training and as a role model for the youngest kids in the club: “She’s a great mentor for the team.”
“Ziyah adds value in any space,” maintains her Algebra II teacher Suzy Hamon. “Ziyah isn’t just a student or an athlete, or even a student-athlete, she is a thoughtful, reflective, engaging, humble, enthusiastic, community-minded individual who also happens to be an outstanding student and athlete.”
With the honor of being named Gatorade State Player of the Year for Girls’ Track and Field comes a $1,000 grant Ziyah has elected to give to FASST. In some ways, FASST was one of her first affinity groups. Through the grant and summer service, she’s staying connected to the club even as she has found a new team and a collection of identity-affirming affinity groups right here at GDS.
Affinity groups have been a big draw for Ziyah at GDS. Not only has she found some groups she really connects with, she’s also formed and led others.
“Aside from Ziyah’s service to others,” says her advisor Lakaya Renfrow, “her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion work will likely be a lifelong passion. She participates in various affinity and conversation spaces such as Open Spaces, the Black Student Union, and Young Women of Color that validate and affirm her, and she in-turn uses that as momentum to facilitate conversations around Title IX and gender equity in sport?.”
Suzy calls her a “social justice warrior.”
She leads the GDS Female Athlete Club, has served on the Anacostia Museum’s Youth Advisory Council, and has been an active member of the Girl Scouts since 2008. Her current project? A Girl Scouts Gold Award requiring 80+ hours of service on “The Power of Mindfulness and Social Media Pressure in High School.”
"Building Networks for the Win" Read more of Ziyah’s story »