Ken-Terika Zellner is one of 408 people who may call Yatesville, Georgia their birthplace. As a child, she was raised by her grandparents and her two aunts, rarely seeing her mother who worked nights in the neighboring town. Still, she considered herself extremely lucky to have five parents, far more than her friends could ever boast of.
When the time came for Ken-Terika to begin school, she felt that she had finally found something at which she could excel: academics. According to her family, Ken-Terika began challenging herself in the classroom on the first day of school—she attempted to impress her teacher with knowledge of advanced subjects such as addition and spelling—and never stopped. Because of her penchant for learning, she was admitted into her elementary school’s gifted program, and later in her academic career she filled her schedule with honors and AP classes. However, desiring more of a challenge than her high school could offer, Ken-Terika enrolled in the Advanced Academy of Georgia which would allow her to simultaneously be a high school senior and a full-time college freshman at the University of West Georgia.
Of course, Ken-Terika does not restrict herself to academics. She believes that being involved in one’s school and community is just as important as excelling in the classroom. Before she enrolled at the Advanced Academy, Ken-Terika participated in her high school’s academic team, math team, and Beta Club. Now at the University of West Georgia, she is an active member of the Suicide Prevention Team and Amnesty International. Ken-Terika is also co-founder of BABEL (Building Awareness for the Benefit of Endangered Languages), a student organization that works to bring attention to the plight of language endangerment, something she has always been passionate about. Having always believed in the importance of giving back to the community, Ken-Terika has volunteered at her local archives, hospice, and her community’s arts council. Currently, she spends her free time tutoring for LIFT (Literacy is for Today and Tomorrow), an organization that provides free adult GED classes.
For Ken-Terika, there is no greater feeling than setting a goal and accomplishing it. Currently, her goals include running a marathon and graduating summa cum laude, but her personal goals are not the ones she is most passionate about. According to Ken-Terika, the most meaningful achievement she could ever accomplish is improving the matriculation rate at her high school. Although Ken-Terika has been accepted to a top-tier university, she never thought that a student from her high school could ever do such a thing. However, her own hopelessness and struggle with the college application process inspired in her a desire to also see her fellow classmates in the country’s top schools. A full believer in “leaving the ladder down,” Ken-Terika has given several presentations at her high school on college readiness and has more planned for the future.
Ken-Terika Zellner will attend Northwestern University where she plans on pursuing a major in cognitive psychology.