Young Black Readers Explore Higher Education in Zakari Goes to College

As a loving, involved mother and grandmother, Jowan Smith is a passionate advocate for education, community healing, and cultivating first-generation graduates.

She has founded multiple community initiatives, such as Getting Our Babies to College 101, which prepares families for the post-secondary education process, and the 1,000 Ties program, which has recently partnered with the Cleveland NFL Alumni group to empower young men and their parents with vital social skills and intergenerational support for daily life and more.

Smith’s dedication to serving the community’s needs through affordable resources has reached throughout Northeast Ohio and beyond. So it should come as no surprise that her personal experiences would motivate her to extend her advocacy by authorship of a book for children.

During a Black college and university (HBCU) tour with her son and then-2-year-old grandson, Zakari, Smith was touched by Zakari’s excitement and enthusiasm while on campus. She quietly noted his reactions to the festivities and activities, knowing that she would treasure the memories of the day. What Smith didn’t realize at the time was that those memories would become the inspiration for a children’s book.

Jowan Smith with son and grandson, Zakari.

Later, however, through the advice and assistance of a trusted mentor, Smith began the book writing process, and Zakari Goes to College was born.

In this family resource guide, 5-year old Zakari attends an HBCU college tour with his uncle and grandmother. As the non-traditional family experiences the college admissions process together, a myriad of emotions, hopes, and dreams is thoughtfully explored. 

“Brown boys often don’t feel as though they can express their emotions,” Smith explains. Her desire to express the need for boys to possess emotional intelligence and a healthy platform to experience their emotions in a productive way strongly influenced her writing. 

Beyond telling the story of Zakari’s exciting introduction to college, the book also includes an index of helpful resources for higher education preparation. The text can be used as a community resource and guide to initiate enthusiastic conversations about college with young readers in the African-American community. 

Zakari Goes to College reflects its author’s passion for encouraging “all children, especially those from low income, high poverty rate areas, those that are counted out, to know that there are so many opportunities for them.”

Want to share Smith’s encouragement with a child you know?  You can order your autographed copy of Zakari Goes to College by visiting the author’s website.

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