Zenani Johnson works to ‘make our communities better’

If the name Zenani Johnson sounds familiar to you, it’s for good reason. The Tallahassee native and current class member of the 25 Women You Need to Know is no stranger to public service. In 2016, she was named one of Tallahassee’s 5 Young Women to Watch in her senior year at Rickards High School.

Six years later, Johnson is pursuing her master’s degree in public administration at Florida State University while working for the Florida Lottery as a 2021-2022 Class 17 Florida Gubernatorial Fellow, where she assists in legislative affairs and serves as an assistant special to the Team Leader. “I work in the field to help generate funds for education, I work in legislative affairs. I love it!”

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Johnson is driven by a passion for her community and believes public service is woven into her family’s DNA. “My dad is a veteran, my mom worked for Volunteer Florida, my sister is a pharmacist, my grandmother is a nurse,” she said. “We have a passion for uplifting the community and giving back.”

She recognizes the responsibility that comes with the leadership opportunities she has won and received. “We have already received everything we need to improve our communities,” she said. “We can’t wait for others to make things happen. We have to do the work ourselves!

She lives her life by this philosophy by volunteering and spending countless hours speaking out on issues that affect young people and working to positively impact Florida communities.

While at the University of West Florida, Johnson held leadership positions on campus and in his freshman year founded the Emergency Housing Assistance Program, which provides free housing to students. in need.

“A close friend was homeless at the time and I wanted to help him and other students,” Johnson said. “We had a lot of empty dorms on campus, and I thought why not see if we could partner up with someone to let them live on campus while they get back on their feet.” The program is still in place and has been replicated at other universities in the state.

In her senior year, she served as student body president and was the first black woman to do so. The same year, she was also elected president of the Florida Student Association as a student representative on the Florida Board of Governors. As governor, she advocated for the needs of nearly 400,000 students across the state in the areas of housing, food insecurity, and textbook accessibility.

She continues to be a national student advocate as a committee member of the Florida College Access Network and through her ongoing work to end student homelessness and increase student access to education. .

She is inspired by her grandmother, who is approaching 103 years old. “I’m inspired by his work ethic; she is my mentor. Her passion for helping others is something she instilled in us,” Johnson says. “No matter who we brought, she always gave them a plate of food. I think that’s why she lived so long. She always cares about others. »

At just 23, Johnson is also CEO of Groundbreaking Strategies, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in advisory services, strategy consulting, and creative professional services.

“Groundbreaking Strategies is my way of giving back. I wouldn’t be here without God and the support of my village. I pray that I can help others on their path to success and that I can help others with my business in the same way. way others have helped me,” Johnson said.

She has been recognized nationally for her commitment to service leadership, advocacy, including the United States Presidential Volunteer Service Award, Congressional Award, Senator Bob Graham’s Award for Service to the Youth and the Governor’s Service Champion Award. She has also received leadership awards from the UWF, Pensacola’s Junior League, and the Girl Scouts Council of the Florida Panhandle Visionary Award.

“I’ve had unique opportunities to serve, and I believe it’s always important to be a voice for those not at the table,” she said. “I hope I leave the world a better place than I found it by continuing to do what God called me to do: serve others, be kind, and be willing to help others when I can. “

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