"You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are" - John Green - The Fault in Our Stars
For Zak, life is all about recognizing and appreciating the present moment. “We are all completely unique. We've never happened before. We need to look at our time here as something we can use to really make a unique mark on our campus and ourselves.” In his final year at UNH, Zak finds himself working as the Assistant Stage Manager for the theater production, Sila. Zak has stage managed several UNH productions such asAnything Goes, Next to Normal, assisted with the 2013Undergraduate Prize Plays, and Avenue Q and was on stage for Spring Awakening. “Sila illustrates the importance of the present moment in three perspectives: the Coast Guard, the Inuit people, and the polar bears. You see these three very different groups moving through the same thought processes about climate change.” In the play, these groups are faced with the threat of climate change and the decision to take or not take action in the present moment for the sake of the future.
When Zak arrived on campus for orientation prior to beginning his first year at UNH, he took a leap and followed his gut by declaring Medical Lab Sciences on the spot as his major. Since declaring, Zak has pursued a wide array of involvement opportunities both related and unrelated to his major.
Zak is a self-proclaimed extrovert and is willing to try new things. Whether it is going to a new meeting or if someone he knows invites him to something he is open to it. “A lot of times we live in this place where we question what will happen and we forget about what is happening now. Many of us have a hard time sitting in the moment we are currently in. If you think about the four years we are here, it has huge effects later but we don't sit and think ‘well, here I am right now in this moment. What can I do?’ I’m trying my best to say to myself what I can do to change these four years.”
As a participant in the Connect Program, Zak was introduced to both the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA) and SHARPP (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention Program). Upon hearing about the 24-hour Crisis Line and how he could help staff it, Zak enrolled in a class to allow him to become a Peer Advocate. He soon began to help staff the crisis line. Through the years Zak has taken the initiative to help more and more in the SHARPP office and he now serves as the Direct Service Assistant.
Advocacy is a common thread in Zak’s work. Sophomore year Zak was a Resident Assistant in the Mini Dorms. Following that experience, Ellen Semran from OMSA reached out to him to encourage him to apply to be a Safe Zones Coordinator to build LGBT awareness and encourage allyhood on campus. Working with Ellen, Zak created “I” an-bullying poster project. “We wanted to talk about the increase in LGBT related suicides so I created this poster project where we had the young person’s face, their birth year, death year, and a little statement about who they were.We wanted people to connect with them…maybe if they were straight themselves, they could connect with this person because they were an Eagle Scout, or this person was a softball player, etc. and they just happened to be the target of a hate crime.” The program is now used frequently in residence halls. Students are able to walk through the display and contribute by writing any feelings that may have arisen on a sticky note.Zak shares that his experiences at OMSA and at SHARPP have connected him greatly, especially with Ellen Semran, Amy Culp and Maggie Wells who he names as role models.
Eventually Zak would like to apply to Physicians Assistant Programs and is hoping to do medical research after graduating. The summer after sophomore year, he completed an internship at Concord Hospital in Phlebotomy, the surgical procedure of drawing blood from a vein, and is currently working as a Phlebotomist at the Elliot Hospital in Manchester, NH. “Doing phlebotomy which has been really challenging and has connected so many of the things that we have talked about in my major. The people there have guided my path. I am really confident now.”
Zak shares, “In ten years, I'll be turning 32. Hopefully I am still doing things I love. Even though I didn't major in theater or music, I hope to always be involved. Even though I probably won't ever work at a crisis center again, I hope that I can still use these skills that I've gained and be an advocate for people in whatever I am doing for work. Maybe I won't still be facilitating LGBT programs in dorms but hopefully I am still making those discussions happen in my daily life.”
2013 - 2014 CYOS Honorees: seated Zak Ahmad-Kahloon, Emily Dickman, Nyomi Guzman, Annie Crossman, standing Lauren McCandless, Kathryn Sattora, Timothy Marquis, Sid Nigam, Evan Beals, Peter Wilkinson