Rising Star Fueled by Scholarship Support

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By the time he was a sophomore, Zuri Kent-Smith had been elected to the Pitt Student Government, was vice president of a student mentoring organization, and a resident assistant. It makes one wonder what else this multiple scholarship recipient can do while on campus.

“I still want to create a student organization with a mission to shed light on implicit bias; otherwise we will never be able to address it,” said Zuri. “I want to leave this University better than I found it.”

Currently a junior with an economics major and minors in Chemistry and Africana Studies, he was drawn to the University of Pittsburgh from his home in North Carolina by the University’s academic reputation.

“I didn’t know Pitt was even a school until I started getting emails [from the admissions office],” Zuri said. “But then I started to research Pitt and learned it was one of the country’s top schools.”

Zuri knew he couldn’t afford the tuition but he started packing his bags when he was awarded a Cathedral of Learning Prestige Scholarship. Without unrestricted gifts to the University from alumni and friends, Pitt would be at a disadvantage when trying to recruit the nation’s best students. Zuri also earned a scholarship from the African American Alumni Council (AAAC).

“Zuri is an engaged and active student that truly exemplifies our goal of promoting the recruitment and retention of African American students,” said AAAC President Vaughn Clagette. “It’s no wonder he has been chosen by his fellow students as a leader.”

“I want to leave this University better than I found it.”

In fact, Zuri received more votes than any other Student Government Board candidate in the 2017 election, making him the body’s executive vice president.

Zuri has excelled in the classroom while at Pitt, but his college experience has also opened his eyes to a world outside of text books.

“I saw that many students of color do not seek mental health services because they don’t feel represented among the staff at the counseling center,” Zuri said. “That is when I knew my mission was to bridge the divide between students and counselors.”

The “mission” resulted in the formation of Panthers of Color, which offers counseling for minority students and a safe place for them to share their experiences. Zuri is now engaged in creating a school-sponsored group called Color TV, which will provide outlets for students of color to talk about their experiences through fully-produced videos posted on social media.

“That’s amazing, but that’s Zuri,” said University of Pittsburgh Lecturer and Director of Undergraduate Studies for Anthropology, Gabby Yearwood. “He really wants to do something in life that is meaningful and purposeful. I’m anxious to see what he does.”


Zuri Kent-Smith

Zuri is also reaching out to the larger Pittsburgh community. He volunteered as mentor and tutor at a predominantly African American and low income high school.

“For the University to be a real leader in Pittsburgh I think it is important that it reach out not only to high-performing schools, but to every neighborhood in Pittsburgh,” Zuri said.

Zuri spent this past summer in New York City taking part in the Columbia University Summer Public Heath Scholars Program where he redesigned the cultural competence training model for Coler Specialty Hospital. His work was adopted by the facility and Zuri was able to help facilitate its implementation.

Zuri plans to take a gap year or two between his undergrad and enrollment in law school. He said he will probably apply for a Fulbright Scholarship or enlist in the Peace Corps.

“I want to expand my world view. I want to be a “world citizen” not just a U.S. citizen,” he said.