Graduating from Hirschi High School in the north central plains of Wichita Falls, Texas nine years ago, Zackary Brown was the first in his family to receive a high school diploma. Having the opportunity to pursue a bachelor’s degree with help from the Annexstad Family Foundation’s Leaders for Tomorrow scholarship, Zackary is using his experience to inspire and motivate those who dream of pursuing higher education. Before his first semester on Vanderbilt’s campus back in 2012, Zackary had dreams to become a physician and decrease health disparities for underserved communities.
Zackary graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Neuroscience and Medicine, Health and Society with a concentration in Race, Health and Inequality. With dreams beyond undgrad, Zackary is set to graduate from Howard University’s School of Medicine this May and is currently applying to Pediatric Residency programs. Prior to his graduation from Howard, Zackary has created a path for impact and an avenue for opportunity back in his hometown of Wichita Falls. In partnership with four young, black Hirschi High alumni, Zackary created the Hirschi Men Can scholarship to uplift Hirschi seniors to pursue post-secondary education.
Zackary shares with the Annexstad Family Foundation his inspiration to continue to pursue education following his high school and undergraduate degrees as well as his goals for his scholarship program, Hirschi Men Can.
1) What motivated you to pursue higher education?
My family continues to be my greatest motivation to pursue higher education. As the first in my family to graduate high school, I owe much of my accomplishments to the support and love of my family. I had a village who allowed me to believe that anything was possible and that there was no obstacle too high for me to overcome. As I continued to defy statistics, I was motivated by my desire to serve as an example for my two younger brothers, a beacon of light for my community and an agent of change for the youth who were to come after me and shape the future for the next generation of leaders.
2) What values did you learn during your time as an undergraduate and how did your college experience reinforce or reshape those values?
Some of the greatest values that I learned as an undergraduate are patience, grace and humility. Prior to college, I was used to school being second nature for me as a student. However, Vanderbilt was the first time I have ever failed an exam. In fact, Vanderbilt was the first time that I received anything other than an “A” on a course. It was a rough first semester as a first-generation high school graduate who moved 12+ hours away from home with not a single family member close by. I remember nightly phone calls to my mother where I questioned my ability, and one of the first things she would tell me is “stop being so hard on yourself, you have this!” It turned out, she was right. With a little patience, I crafted new study strategies and would graduate as a recognized top 20 senior at Vanderbilt. I learned grace in the sense of allowing myself space to fail, make mistakes and grow from them. Lastly, I learned humility in that it is okay to ask for help. I grew up in an environment where asking for help was a sign of weakness. It was not until I was far away from home when I realized that asking for help is actually one of the greatest signs of strength.
3) How did the Annexstad Family Foundation scholarship impact your undergraduate experience?
Through the Annexstad Family Foundation scholarship my family and I gained a sense of peace while at Vanderbilt. The scholarship allowed my family the peace of mind knowing that my education was secured through the tremendous aid of the Annexstad Family. Additionally, the scholarship provided me the space to focus my efforts on being a student, a good friend and a leader on campus. With one less burden on my shoulder, I was able to focus on finding my passion in medicine, making memories and creating friendships that would last a lifetime.
4) What is one piece of advice you could offer current Annexstad scholars?
My greatest piece of advice is “to be kind to yourself.” We are oftentimes our greatest critic and enemy. Remember that you are breaking barriers daily and nobody said that it would be an easy task. So as much as you critic yourself, make sure that you are also applauding your daily achievements.
5) What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration. I want to inspire a generation of young leaders who desire to shape the world and for my legacy to serve as a source of hope for our children, regardless of their story. I hope that my legacy inspires our youth to use their voice to invoke change and exude light into the world. Ultimately, I want my legacy to change the world for the better and show our youth that our potential is limitless.
6) What influenced you to create the Hirschi Men Can scholarship program?
I come from a community where many of the children do not see people who look like the people in our community achieve dreams that expand beyond the city limits. As someone who was blessed with opportunities like the Annexstad Foundation which allowed me to set a new precedent in my own family, I wanted to create opportunities for someone else from my community to do the same in their family. Therefore, I contacted 4 other young, black alumni from Hirschi High School who represent the broad spectrum of achievement that come from our high school and asked if they would be interested in starting a scholarship. While our career goals differ we all share a common tie and have a desire to uplift the graduates that come after us.
7) What goals do you have for this program?
My goal for the “Hirschi Men Can” scholarship is to become a source of hope for the youth in our community. We want the leaders that come after us to know that “Hirsch Men Can” become anything that they want to become. We hope that with this scholarship we can help lessen the burden of a student so that their dream can seem just a little more tangible. Last year our scholarship of $500 was awarded to one minority, Senior at Hirschi High School. We are proud of the work that we have accomplished thus far and are currently in the planning stage to increase our funds, increase engagement with the community and create mentoring and networking opportunities for our scholars and community. I believe that with a supportive village and some guidance, that “Hirschi Men Can” change the world and leave a lasting impact.
8) How can someone learn more about the Hirschi Men Can scholarship?
Right now, we are campaigning to increase our scholarship funding so that we can broaden our impact and include another scholar into our program. More information can be found at: View more