To say that Abigail Zeitler has an impressive resume would be a bit of an understatement. Take, for instance, her summer plans. While many of us were interning, working or watching hours of our favorite shows on Netflix, Abigail was participating in a 4,500-mile bike ride from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska with an organization called Texas 4000. And we thought our spin class was a lot of cardio! The goal of this 70-day endeavor was to raise awareness and money for cancer research programs, and Abigail did just that.
Abigail has many other passions, including volunteerism, writing and travel. She is interested in starting a nonprofit organization to benefit children in Africa, and after graduation, she plans on serving a two-year commitment in the Peace Corps. This creative collegiette is currently working on a book of poems inspired by her journey with Texas 4000. And even with all of this on her plate, she still makes time to be involved on campus. Talk about a balancing act!
Name: Abigail Zeitler
College: The University of Texas at Austin
Majors: Public Relations, Business Foundations Global Track, Bridging Disciplines Program: Nonprofits & Social Entrepreneurship
Graduation Year: 2016
Hometown: Valparaiso, Indiana
Instagram Handle: @abz.zeitler
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Abigail Zeitler: I am most proud of raising $15,000 collectively through various efforts and joining the fight against cancer. Whether it was interning for a year at the LIVESTRONG Foundation, participating in Texas THON, or biking across the country to raise awareness with Texas 4000, I have made an impact in the fight against cancer. This summer I completed a 4,000 mile bike ride with my Ozarks teammates from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska. Our team has raised over $723,500.00. Not only did we raise money to fight cancer, but we also visited communities along the way giving programs and touching lives to spread our mission of hope, knowledge and charity.
My mom and two of my friends that are my age are cancer survivors. I ride and fight for them every day. Whenever the opportunity presents itself to get involved in the cancer community, I take the opportunity to give back and help the people who gave my mom and friends support during their treatment.
HC: What are you working on right now?
AZ: I am about to start an intensive research project that will look into orphanages and childcare in Africa which will be the supporting literature for a nonprofit I am going to start once I am out of college. While reforming orphanages is also a solution, my research will look at whether or not family-based care and adoption are the best solution to solving the orphan crisis that arose from the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa. I plan to visit Africa again this winter with African Impact, spending three weeks in Zanzibar and two weeks in Zambia.
I am also leading the second UT Real Beauty Campaign on our campus. Our mission is to help women of the UT campus and greater Austin community break the barriers that restrict their self-confidence through redefining the idea of beauty and to create a community of women who embrace their imperfections and evaluate their worth based on their heart, their soul and their mind. The UT Real Beauty Campaign is a month long, university-wide campaign consisting of campus promotional events, activities, and speakers focused on re-defining the definition of beauty that our media has created in our minds. At its core the UT Real Beauty Campaign is communicating that real beauty is something that comes from within rather than surface level. This campaign will play off of the major concepts and initiatives started by the Dove Brand’s Real Beauty Movement. We are bringing in Lizzie Velasquez as our keynote speaker this year. Check out our social media at https://www.facebook.com/UTrealbeauty/, and http://utrealbeauty.tumblr.com/. Our theme this year is "Love yourself to love the world."
A few other projects at UT that I am working on include getting a Social Entrepreneurship division of Longhorn Entrepreneurship Agency up and running—which works to promote socially innovative ventures on campus and have them gain knowledge about the one for one movement. Within my women's spirit organization, I am also spearheading a new initiative this semester called the Spirit of Kindness, which is a pay it forward movement to encourage individuals to give back to one another. This will also be the last year that I am continuing to run my "Guide to Success" blog that provides tips on how to survive college: http://theresnosuchthingasanexcuse.tumblr.com/.
HC: How do you hope that your nonprofit will make a difference?
AZ: While traveling abroad, the universal sector that needed the most improvement was orphanages. I traveled to Costa Rica, Africa and the Dominican Republic and saw that the needs were the same. Some orphanages would have great facilities but have no money to send the children to schools. Others were sending the children to school but didn't have running water. I believe in a world where you are a product of your choices not your circumstances and these children deserve more. I realized that I not only had a personal connection to the children I had interacted with, but I had a passion for the cause and the knowledge and will power to make a change. The nonprofit I am starting is going to give children access to a better life through providing them adequate care and nurturing as well as opportunities to succeed.
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
AZ: Take risks. Do what you would not normally do and get out of your comfort zone. You will never regret failing... You will only regret the times you didn't try or the chances you didn't take. I attribute all of my success to bravery and courage to journey into uncharted territory. So take the road less traveled and forge your own path.
HC: What is the biggest thing you’ve learned on your journey this summer?
AZ: This summer has taught me the importance of people. It's not about the place or the experience or the accomplishment... Life is about the people you interact with along the way that make up your story.
HC: Where can others learn more about Texas 4000?
AZ: We have a website that features more general information about the organization. It also lists individual riders where you can read their blogs, stories and watch their testimonial videos to learn more about why they ride as well as how to donate.
2017 Update: Abigail Zeitler is unfortunately no longer with us. You can visit the GoFundMe set up by her closest friends to learn more about how you can contribute to the organizations and causes that mattered most to her.
Jamie is a senior Writing, Literature and Publishing major at Emerson College in Boston, MA. She is the Her Campus Life Editor, a National Contributing Writer, and Campus Correspondent of the Emerson Her Campus chapter. Jamie plans to pursue a career in the magazine industry. See more of her work at: www.jamiemkravitz.com