Even though 22-year old Zanesha Rhodes is the youngest of her siblings, she has a fighting spirit and a desire to protect the ones she loves, that is beyond her years.
Her fierce desire to protect and defend the defenseless, especially children, has led her down a unique educational journey. One that weaves its way around elementary education, studying the law and the United States Navy.
As a May 2021 Faulkner graduate armed with her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, she’s been asked often how she went from elementary education to joining the Navy as a E3 Seaman. She was officially sworn in a week before she graduated.
“I’ve wanted to be a child advocate lawyer since I watched my first Law and Order episode,” Rhodes said. “It was about the special victims unit and portrayed courtroom scenes with a female judge and at a young age, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
“Since you can go into law school with any degree, I decided a degree in Elementary Education would help me later on. As a student intern, I loved working in the local classrooms with children from all different backgrounds. They would share things with me about their home life and they found that they could rely on me. Interning at the schools really opened my eyes to children’s behaviors due to family issues, growing up in a single-parent home and other factors. The children fueled my passion even further and I know those experiences would benefit me as a child advocate later on.”
Rhodes came to Faulkner after graduating from Autaugaville High School. Once she visited campus, she saw herself as an Eagle. She played on the Junior Varsity Women’s Basketball team her freshman and sophomore years and was a part of a women’s Bible study group on campus where she learned to put aside distractions, strengthen her relationship with Christ and invest herself in her studies.
“I have friendships from Faulkner and the basketball team that will last a lifetime,” Rhodes said. “My teammates, my peers in the education department and I were all able to develop as individuals because of the connection and bonds we formed. My professors really pushed us to put our best foot forward. They really cared and wanted the best for us. It was like gaining the second family God knew I needed.”
Rhodes’ family and professors were also supportive in her pursuit of a career in the military as another component to help her along her legal career. That and the fact she has always been inspired by her father, a retired fire department medic. When the opportunity to join the military came along, she saw it as an answer to prayer.
A Navy recruiter reached out to Rhodes just when she was considering a military career. The recruiter showed her the possibilities of a Navy Reservist job with the opportunity to travel and learn law enforcement.
“It was meant to happen,” Rhodes said. “I met with her and I felt right about it. She really cared and seemed to know what I wanted. The Navy will teach me life skills and it can help pay for law school.”
The Prattville native has grown up around family who love and support her and her decisions. She realized not all children are so fortunate.
“I definitely tend to put others before myself. Being in a first-responder role really changes your perspective,” Rhodes said. “I want to become the best advocate I can because I want to see children get the best out of life they can.”
Rhodes shipped out July 13 for Navy Basic Training in Illinois followed by “A” School in Texas to become a Navy Hospital Corpsman.