Student Spotlight: Nohemy Zabala C’21

Nohemy Zabala C’21

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Colombia and moved to the U.S when I was five years old.

What attracted you to Drew?

I liked its close proximity to home and NYC. I didn’t want to be just another student that filled a seat in a classroom – I wanted to go to a school that genuinely cared about its students and their success and that’s exactly what Drew offers. Drew’s Civics Scholar Program was definitely what sealed the deal – once I was accepted into the program, I knew that Drew was where I wanted to start my professional career.

What inspired you to major in Political Science and Business?

Out of the majors that are common among law school applicants, the one that I felt would best prepare me for law school and my professional life after was Political Science. There’s always something new happening or changing in Political Science and being able to understand all of those movements has been a very rewarding challenge. Understanding the complexities of the government has also helped me become a more informed citizen, which is very important in this day and age. As for my Business major, I really enjoy talking and learning about the business world so I decided to also major in it. I grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs and part of me has always wanted to follow that path in life so majoring in business made perfect sense to me. Additionally, it has given me the opportunity to become a more well-rounded person.

Have you done any internships?

My first internship as a Drew student was at the Morristown Neighborhood House. At first, it was just the placement I was assigned to as a first-year Civic Scholar to complete a requirement. Shortly after I started working there I volunteered to help out in more of their other programs and ever since, I have gone back to every year to help with what I can. What started as a requirement ended up becoming one of my most valuable life experiences.

I interned at the Madison Borough, where I was able to shadow different people to better understand the inner workings of local government.

I interned for The Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs’ Center for Citizenship and Legal Immigration on two different occasions. My first time interning for them was during the summer after my freshman year. Then, during the summer of 2020, I had the opportunity to assist them by conducting some legal research, translating documents, and preparing presentations to help the local community better understand the most up-to-date immigration news. Being able to work on my personal professional skills while giving back to the community was a very rewarding experience.

I also interned for a lobbying firm in Washington D.C called LobbyIt. Being able to work at a firm located a block away from the Capital building was simply astounding.

Currently, I am interning at the Superior Court of New Jersey’s Criminal Division.

Do you have any mentors at Drew? 

Political Science Professor Phil Mundo has been one of my most valuable resources at Drew. He has played the role of my professor, academic advisor, and internship supervisor all at different times throughout my four years at Drew. Always very understanding, he directs all of his students to strive to complete their best work. Whenever I have had a question about class or my career, he has always been willing to have a conversation with me to talk about it. He has also been very helpful in planning out my four years and making sure that I am doing everything that I should be doing before graduation.

Amy Sugerman has also been someone who has been there for me since the first day I visited campus. Whenever I had a question or wasn’t sure what it was that I had to do, she has always had an answer for me. Whether academic, personal, volunteering, or career related, she has always lent a helping hand and been very supportive when needed. I have learned so much from her and am very thankful to have her as someone who I can reach out to at any time.

What are some of your favorite memories of Drew? 

As an Educational Opportunity Scholars (EOS – Frances B. Sellers Program)  student, my college experience began the summer before my freshman year. For five weeks, my EOS class, consisting of 14 students, lived on campus, took classes, and participated in different activities together. Academically, it was the hardest thing I had done at the time but despite all of the difficulties, we had an overabundance of support from the staff throughout the entire time. This experience allowed us to get a glimpse of what college would be like before it actually started. We were also able to meet other students who we shared many similarities with. Apart from academics we also got the spend a lot of quality time together and build close-knit connections with each other.

My first Civics Scholar retreat consisted of us going to a farm about an hour away from campus to harvest corn that would then be sent to local food pantries for families to acquire. As a city girl, I had never done such a thing (I actually never would’ve thought that I would ever be doing that) but I absolutely loved it! I met amazing people who I can now call my friends and had an amazing time working together with like-minded people to help families in need of fresh produce. It was amazing to see how much we could all accomplish by working together. All of the Civics retreats have been such a great experience!

For an MLK Day celebration, I was part of a group that helped at a Habitat for Humanity construction site in Morristown. It was great meeting other students who weren’t Civic Scholars but still had an interest in giving back to the community.

Have you done any short or NycTRECS?

Last Spring, I had the opportunity to participate in the Washington Semester Program. Although it was cut short because of COVID-19, I was able to see many of the concepts I have learned about in my Political Science classes being applied to real-life situations. This past summer I was part of the Wall Street Summer Program but because of the pandemic, we had to complete the program online from home. Even though it was not ideal, our professor made sure to make it a positive experience for all of us.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

After learning about it in the classroom and seeing it first-hand, I have been very invested in working hard to address the hardships children of low-income, often minority, families face. Whether it’s not having an English-speaking parent at home to help them with their homework or not being fed enough nutritious food because of their parent’s limited income, children are forced to face so many hardships at an extremely young age that could potentially impact how they live the rest of their lives. While this issue is extremely complex and broad, it is one that I think is worthy of all of our attention. Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders and no child should be denied the opportunity to live up to their full potential because they did not have enough resources or advantages growing up.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

In five years I hope to be a practicing attorney. Although I’m not sure of what kind of law I want to practice, I would love to be able to do something that I genuinely enjoy that allows me to give back to the community one way or another. In addition to that, I hope to have already started forming my own non-profit organization that focuses on helping children of underserved communities.

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