Award-winning speaker and author Zach Rinkins
By ISHEKA N. HARRISON
MIAMI – After working as a university administrator and seeing firsthand the challenges students faced with being successful in and after college, Zach Rinkins decided to do something about it.
The Miami native penned “I Am College Material! Your Guide to Unlimited College, Career and Life Success” to offer students practical advice to maximize their college experience and launch into well-paying, successful careers.
“I want them to adopt a particular mindset. I think mindsets are very important because we can change behaviors temporarily, but if we change mindsets then we can have permanent impact,” Rinkins said. “I don’t want college students to think of themselves as college students, I want college students to think of themselves as emerging professionals.”
And just what exactly is the difference between a college student and an emerging professional? According to Rinkins, college students merely attend college, while emerging professionals compile a set of skills, experiences and relationships that really help them transform their college experience into the opportunity of a lifetime.
Rinkins said he is literally saddened that so many students, particularly black students, leave college with a mountain of debt and no true viable plan for success.
“For people in our community it’s very important that we prepare because there’s so much data out there that’s saying for many of us who go to college – and when I say us I mean black people – the degrees and the majors and the career paths we pursue don’t really put us in a position of upward mobility; and that has an adverse impact on our community and our quality of life,” Rinkins said.
To help students avoid this pitfall, Rinkins covers a variety of topics in his book including: the top colleges for blacks; how to choose the right college based on a student’s projected career path; avoiding unhealthy debt; how to identify and select high-capacity majors; how to build relationships with the right people; how to take full advantage of campus resources; the importance of dealing with mental health; and more.
Rinkins said it took him about a year-and-a-half to write the book because he didn’t want it to be based solely on his perspective.
“I engaged 50 to 60 subject matter experts on various topics that impact the college experience. I interviewed over six current and former college presidents, two economists, experts in mental, physical and spiritual health; and others to really talk about the holistic experience of a college student,” Rinkins said. “The book is not my opinion. It’s grounded in subject matter experts and a lot of data.”
Rinkins’ said data revealed several trends that hurt college students, particularly blacks, in great numbers. They include: how failing to graduate on time impacts debt; how minorities tend to make less money, but are tasked with supporting more people; how many Millennials are delayed with achieving ‘The American Dream’ and more.
“A lot of Milliennials are buying homes later, getting married later and really starting their American dream later because of a lack of economic confidence, so if you do the right things in college and invest your education into a growing field you will have economic mobility,” Rinkins said. “It hurts us more than anything. … If you’re perceived to have a good job or you’re educated, black people, we tend to have to support underperforming or non-performing family members, so we’re in a position where we’re not making as much as we need to, we have debt that we have to repay and often we’ve invested our education in low-paying industries that are dying … You first starting salary has a long-term impact on your life earning potential.”
He contrasted this to other racial groups who find jobs with $50,000 signing bonuses, $2,000 to $10,000 bonuses twice a year and stock options, saying he believes wholeheartedly that education is still the great equalizer.
“There are so many people questioning the validity of the college experience so let me make myself very clear. I still believe in the college experience. If done properly in a financially efficient way there is almost no other vehicle than can transition a person into a solid middle class life, especially people who are from underserved communities and minorities,” Rinkins said.
Though Rinkins currently resides in California with his wife, he is still very much connected to his hometown and maintains a residence here. In fact on Dec. 21, he will return home to present the “I Am College Material! Community Conversation on College and Career Success” in partnership with EcoTech Visions Foundation. The event will be held at EcoTech’s Miami Gardens location, 1020 NW 163 Drive.
Rinkins said overall, he wants blacks in his community, and those around the world, to be resourceful. His book retails for $10 and can be purchased by visiting www.IAmCollegeMaterial.com. He is also available for coaching and speaking engagements.
“This is an issue that we really have to get to the bottom of because it touches every other issue in our lives. This is something that you have to prioritize. If you know what you’re doing college can be an incredible resource. If you take college casually you will become a casualty,” Rinkins said.
PLEASE NOTE: This article has been edited to show the correct date for the “I Am College Material!” Community Conversation being held at EcoTech Visions.