Though Zephie was in a devastating fire at age seven, she never allowed challenges to keep her from living her life joyfully. The second of nine children, Zephie cared for her younger siblings while her parents maintained a deli, a fabric store and a gift shop in Crown Heights Brooklyn.
Diversity shaped both her open-mindedness and propensity for leadership and change. Zephie was born and raised an Orthodox Jew in Crown Heights, Brooklyn but after the fire, her family moved to, a then, dangerous and impoverished Bed-Stuy. Her new environment necessitated change as she negotiated the dichotomy of her worlds. She continued to attend Yeshiva of Crown Heights and then Y.H.S.Q. Ohr Torah in Queens.
Zephie continued to embrace change as she became an undergraduate at the Pratt Institute where she graduated with honors and received her BFA in Fashion Design and Merchandising. Ironically, Pratt is also where the education bug bit her. Though she loved elements of the life in fashion, Zephie had always had a love of language and literature so she took enough electives in both education and English to procure a temporary teaching license upon graduation. She promised herself one year in a job where she could use her BFA in Fashion Merchandising and Business Management but then she would spend a year teaching.
Twenty-five years later...Zephie used her art background to support the ELA curriculum in her classroom. She was teaching marginalized youngsters who had aged out of elementary school but already had criminal records and had not passed state reading exams. Her no nonsense style as a disciplinarian and creative educator began her ascent to acclaim amongst her colleagues.
In her first year as a teacher, 26 of 28 students passed the ELA exam. Convinced that strong character, love, the arts and discipline were the key to reaching even the most troubled youth, she began teaching both middle school and high school in Hempstead, N.Y. She also began coaching for the NAACP ACT-SO program.
Zephie retired from teaching in 2016 ready to set her sights on a bigger and bolder initiative. The doors of The Creative Arts Ministry opened in January 2017. Zephie invites former students who are now in the creative field to come in twice a month to teach 13-17 year olds about their craft. The center currently provides classes in fashion design, photography, film, and improv. There are plans to add horticulture by summer 2017.
She has created an internship program that allows budding entrepreneurs the opportunity to build a resume while encouraging the next generation to explore worlds that they might never be a part of simply because they weren’t exposed. Talented, more seasoned entrepreneurs like Jeff Moran-Morales of Box of Dreams Photography, Barbara Clarke Ruiz of BCSWIRL, Inc., and Marc Skinner of Pageant Pros have contributed to the program as guest coaches.
Now, Zephie is moving into the future with her new project, The Fix to continue impacting young lives and building the future we all need.