Some of the most prominent qualities of a Rattler are represented in how they express themselves.
Making your voice heard and sharing your political values is a big part of that expression. With Florida A&M University being located in the state’s capital, students are provided with an experience that few receive, let alone know what to do with.
This was never an issue for first-year business administration student Zayla Bryant. Although this is her first academic year at FAMU, being on campus has allowed her to be outspoken and positively share who she is with her community.
“I’ve known I wanted to attend FAMU since I was in third grade,” Bryant said. “When I was younger, I had met this man who was the father of the new girl in school. He held himself in such a way I had never seen from a Black man. He was confident, astute, and he had the ability to draw people in with his presence. I asked him how he got this way, and he told me that he attended FAMU. Since that day, that’s all I ever had my sites on.”
Attending FAMU has been a life-changing experience for Bryant, practically everything she hoped for as a child.
Grateful for the opportunity to attend the school of her dreams, she has been very candid about what she has learned during her time at FAMU and why the Highest of Seven Hills is where she belongs.
“I will always be glad I made the decision to attend my HBCU because it’s one of the few times in the foreseeable future where I can control my surroundings,” Bryant said. “I love Black people, so living, eating, learning, growing, laughing and experiencing life with those that look like me gives me an explicit sense of community. I see enclaves of this excellence in the most diverse and beautiful of ways.”
Bryant describes FAMU as an “enclave of excellence” and uses the campus’ diversity and beauty as inspiration to be openly vocal about her political views.
She can sometimes be found on campus leading a speech about the rights of those in her community, motivating those around her to speak up.
Bryant’s childhood best friend, Zoe Jones, another first-year business administration student, can attest to how much Bryant has grown and how her character translates into her passions. The two have known each other for 10 years, having grown up in Atlanta, and Jones describes her as “dedicated” and “hardworking.”
“Something I’ve learned from Zayla is that persistence and hard work definitely pay off,” Jones said. “I’ve seen her accomplish every goal she’s ever set out to complete. Over the years, we’ve gotten closer, and our bond has gotten stronger as we find more about each other and go through life-strengthening experiences together.”
Having a solid support system has given Bryant the comfort she needs to get to where she wants to be in life, and it is clearly shown through her character and how she interacts with those around her.
This has proven to be an incredible asset through her affiliation with the Youth Never Let Up Coalition, an organization dedicated to fostering relationships among Gen-Z change-makers and leaders.
Bryant co-founded YNLU with nine others at a leadership summit in Minnesota. The 10 members wanted to create a space for students to be “politically active” and “take charge” during their youth.
The YNLU Coalition does not limit itself to only being an on-campus membership. The organization can be found at several other universities across the East Coast and welcomes new recruits.
“The only qualification to being a ‘prominent member’ of the coalition is to be willing to put in the work to be the change you want to see,” Bryant said. “With that, I have been able to look within the shadows of my campus to find those that have been ignited with a political urgency because they have finally been engaged. This takes time. This takes patience. This takes a will to want to help outside of helping yourself.”
Bryant’s passion has not gone unnoticed, especially by her team.
Although the organization covers multiple locations, she and one of her co-founders, senior political science student Devan Vilfrard, have been the spokespeople for the YNLU’s involvement on FAMU’s campus, organizing several events specifically for Rattlers.
With an organization that caters to support an up-and-coming generation like Bryant’s, it’s helpful to have ideas that attract that audience. Vilifard, 25, commends Bryant, 18, for bringing “professional and valuable” to the table at her young age.
“Zayla is very driven. She has very good insight on leadership and organizing, as well as media, content creation, and politics,” Vilfrard said. “I see her becoming a monumental powerhouse when it comes to leadership. Even though I am not much older than her, she knows the audience more, and she shows me a refreshed and younger perspective that helps me target my audience a little better.”
As someone new to adulthood and what it means to be a college student, Bryant has taken it all in confidently and with her head held high. She also extends her values and what she has learned as she grows through content creation.
On her Instagram, she frequently posts videos sharing her insight on what life has thrown at her, what those experiences have taught her, and affirmations for her viewers, which has caused her to want to explore other academic fields.
“I chose to major in business administration because I’ve always had a dream of being a refined, independent, strong businesswoman who is the head of the marketing department of a Fortune 500 company,” Bryant said. “But, since I’ve been at FAMU and have seen what other possibilities are out there for me, I’m not really sure which pathway I want to take. I want to explore my possibilities in journalism, [because] I know that is along with my purpose for me to pursue.”
Students like Bryant show that the current generation approaching adulthood is acutely aware of what is happening in their communities and how it affects them. They are fearless in speaking up and becoming active in their prospective institutions.
“The work I’ve done with other FAMU leaders is necessary,” Bryant said. “I have been shown on more than one occasion that I cannot look for others to show me how to be the change I want to see. I had to become it for myself.”