In the span of three and a half years at Plattsburgh State, Kiley Zachs is graduating a semester early with her name on a number of different projects.
Coming to school in fall 2012, Zachs majored in psychology but soon double majored in gender and women’s studies.
Zachs took a GWS introductory class and knew right away she wanted to be a part of this.
“I have always been interested in these issues,” Zachs said. “With what I’ve been through and what my loved ones have gone through, I want to provide more services for these people because we are in a high demand for more support.”
One class that helps bring more attention to gender and sexual trauma is the weekend class called 104A- Power, Sexuality & Relationships. This class takes place every semester over the course of one weekend. Zachs took her first weekend class during her first semester at PSUC.
“I completely fell in love with it,” Zachs said. “The support systems made me want to go into that type of work.”
Since that class, Zachs has been a peer educator on campus for gender and sexual trauma.
Title IX Coordinator Butterfly Blaise has been with Zachs since her peer educator career began.
“Kiley already had the core concepts of being a peer educator. She has a very strong sense of knowledge in relation to gender violence,” Blaise said.
“She has been very proactive and has been a leader since the first semester, and her comfort level in interacting with other students has been amazing.”
Blaise said Zachs teamed up with other peer educators for the weekend class and throughout her semesters to learn how to teach workshops. One workshop Zachs created is trauma-oriented yoga.
Zachs said yoga helped her a lot with trauma from personal experiences.
“I reconnected with myself, and I wanted to give that to other people,” she said. “Trauma makes you disconnect with your bodies, and yoga is a way to help someone bring that connection back.”
Zachs said because of the success of the class, she will soon be getting her certification to teach this type of yoga all around the country.
“I want to be a sex therapist and help people who have gone through gender and sexual trauma,” Zachs said. “I want to open my own practice and incorporate the yoga instead of giving people medications to try.”
Another workshop Zachs has been helping with is the survivors’ room. This room gives a space for people who were affected by gender or sexual trauma to come and relax.
Blaise said Zach has compassion and a position of empathy, which is something no one can teach.
While being a peer educator, Zachs had the time to be a writer and editor on the Gender & Women Studies Gazette. The gazette is a newsletter produced every semester focusing on different topics in the GWS department.
“My favorite piece to write was my article on the Carry The Weight project that I created on campus,” Zachs said.
Carry That Weight was a project created by a student named Emma on Columbia University after being sexually assaulted on campus. The school did nothing to help her, so she decided to carry around her mattress that she was assaulted on to raise awareness to the issue.
“Carrying around the mattress shows the physical and mental strain survivors go through,” Zachs said. “Emma wanted other schools to participate in this because mostly every campus has this problem of sexual abuse. So with the help of others, the project came here to Plattsburgh.”
This semester, her last semester at PSUC, Zachs has been interning for The Trevor Project in New York City since August.
The Trevor Project is the first national resource in suicide prevention for LGBQT youth, specifically. The project includes crisis services, a hotline service that is open 24/7, a texting service and social media accounts. Trevor Space is for LGBQT youth to connect and talk to the Trevor Project online.
Zachs worked with the company last year after seeing their presentation in Washington D.C.
“I helped form strategies and lessons that people can bring to school,” Zachs said. “This semester, I am focusing more on the social media aspect. We are providing these resources where youths can connect in ways that they may not feel comfortable to do in person yet.”
Zachs said her favorite part is to connect with the people and give support and courage to them in any way she can.
“I will have to call someone at 3 in the morning because they posted something on the social media pages,” she said. “Just because I’m not working doesn’t mean I am not going to respond to something important.”
PSUC GWS Department Chair Susan Mody, Zachs’s internship adviser, said working at The Trevor Project is something close to Zachs’s heart.
“Kiley is so enthusiastic about this type of work,” Mody said. “She brings her social media skills to whatever she does and knows how to use them when wanting to focus on something important.”
Mody said when talking about Zachs, “enthusiasm feels a weak word.” She said her passion is so deep and so real that it comes across in her presence and inspires other around her.
“It’s wonderful to see her step into that teaching role, which she embraced early on, and it is very effective,” Mody said.
As teachers, Mody said they usually don’t get to see their students’ next steps after graduating. With Zachs, it is a different story. With her internship, Zachs has to email weekly updates to Mody.
“It’s wonderful to see what she is doing because she is actively involved in campaigns, and it’s very exciting to see her journey continue,” Mody said.
Blaise and Mody said Zachs’s presence is “impactful and meaningful. It brings so much to group dynamics.”
Zachs said Mody and Blaise have been her mentors throughout her college career.
“They both have given me the support and encouragement I needed to do what I want in life. They have pushed me to do things, and I love it,” Zachs said.
Email Samantha Stahl at firstname.lastname@example.org