Jennifer “Jen” Demyan ‘21 had a passion for service. During her time at the College, she loved working as a teacher’s assistant at a local Montessori School. When Jen’s parents endowed a scholarship in her honor after she passed away, the goal of the funding was to allow an out-of-state student at College of Charleston to pursue a passion that might not be financially available to them without additional funding. During the selection process for the first recipient of Jennifer Demyan Memorial Scholarship, the Awards Committee placed great importance on the applicant’s dedication to helping others. However, they weren’t planning on one of the applicants having such striking similarities to Jen and her story. Zara Johnson is from just outside of Jen’s hometown, West Chester, Pennsylvania, has an interest in journalism and public policy, and a passion for service and community engagement.
As a member of the Bonner Leadership program, a four-year civic leadership and development program, Zara has accumulated 300+ service hours each year, participated in weekly social justice roundtable discussions with fellow members of the program, and helped promote a culture of sustainability and civic engagement on campus, all while maintaining a remarkable academic career as a Communication and International Studies double major. Zara has volunteered weekly at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry where she has learned about what goes on in the behind-the-scenes world of collecting historical data and presenting it to the public.
Through receiving this scholarship, Zara was able to add yet another service project to her list: the Alternative Break program. This program empowers students to progress from members of their campus community to active citizens after college through education, direct service and reflection that focuses on social issues. Alongside fellow COMM major Olivia Lott, Zara worked with the anti-censorship organization Free the Facts to organize a Spring Break trip focusing on the narrative presented to the public by museums in Washington, DC. FTF is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization that educates young Americans about public policy that directly impacts their lives while empowering them to create solutions and take action.
Zara and Olivia worked together to plan a curriculum, arrange travel and accommodations, and connect with CofC alumni with knowledge of journalism and public policy located the DC area. “I am grateful have made connections with a great group of CofC Alumni who are eager to participate in this project,” Zara says, “and I am fortunate that the Demyan scholarship has given me the financial breathing room I needed to pursue planning this trip.”
“I am thankful for every COMM professor that I’ve had,” Zara says. “From my first COMM class was Media in the Digital Age with Dr. Parisi, which solidified my interest in the world of communication, to my current Communication Ethics class, my passion has continued to grow through their wonderful mentorship. My International Development class made me realize that I could connect my interest in international issues with my passion for communicating through writing,” she adds. Although she has a year left at CofC, she is already thinking about her plans after graduation. The lessons learned during her Alternative Break research has inspired her to shift her focus to journalism, with a focus of on international issues. The more she looks for them, the more connections she finds among her International Studies and Communication courses, and the more certain she is in the pursuit of her journalism career.