Her experience at St. Johns wasn’t always the easiest journey, but Zhanee Anderson ‘16, known as Z, says she would do it all over again. Looking back, she says that transitioning to St. Johns from the public school system as a freshman was at times a challenge, but thanks to her soccer teammates, Coach Mike Pickett ‘83, and Coach Pat Rodifer, becoming a part of the St. Johns family was made much easier. She says the faculty and staff at St. Johns made the school feel like a family, and she appreciated the open-door policies that made new students like her feel welcome. What Z didn’t know during her freshman year at St. Johns was her next four years here would change the course of her career path.
Z referred to St. Johns as a “safe space for support” and remembers the freedom that she had when she was a student, “My favorite part of school was eating lunch on the stage or in Brad Schmidt’s office. He and Mrs. Fisher both had a lot to do with why I stayed at St. Johns.” Of course, her favorite memory is winning four soccer state championships, and beyond soccer, St. Johns consistently gave her the opportunity to push herself outside of her comfort zone.
When her senior year arrived and she had yet to complete her final arts credit for graduation, she found herself in Mrs. Ayres’ ceramics classroom. She thought it was relaxing and she took a deeper dive into the world of art, a topic that had always interested her. During that time, her interests continued to grow and now art direction is a big part of her career.
After graduation, Z headed off to Valdosta State University. She graduated in May of 2020 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in mass media and played soccer all four years for the university. While she was at Valdosta State, Z worked on numerous projects with the athletic department including—her favorite—serving as a color commentator for the 2019 NCAA Division 2 Football Playoffs and hosting a weekly sports update, "The Hot Minute." Of course, graduating in the middle of a pandemic had its own challenges as far as what was next for Z, “On a whim, I applied to grad school and was accepted to the University of Miami as a film major.” During her time at Miami, she also interned for the Hurricane football team under the Creative Director of Recruiting, “That experience opened the creative sports door for me and I knew I really wanted to do video.” Z began looking for different jobs that would allow her to pursue her passion.
Currently, at the University of Texas, Austin, Z is the Content Creator in their Athletics Department. In this role, she manages the art direction of all recruiting marketing and media materials including graphic design, visual storytelling, social media content, photography, and videography.
Z has seen a lot of growth and opportunities over the past year, and she credits that to some of the most valuable lessons that she learned at St. Johns. “Most of my lessons come from Coach Pickett,” she says: “‘A goal without a plan is a wish,’ I’ve had success because I always knew if I didn’t have a plan I wouldn’t get to where I wanted to be.” Z has had success and she has an amazing story as an athlete. She really had to fight hard to play soccer in college. Her passion for her work comes from wanting to share the stories of other athletes similar to her own, “I want to tell stories from someone who understands other athletes and cares about them. I want to be their voice because their stories are important.” For an athlete, their college career comprises some of the most important years of their lives, and Z prides herself on being a support system for the athletes.
As to the future, Z looks forward to continuing to work with the Longhorn athletes as she continues to grow, create, and prosper in her career. If she has taught the St. Johns community anything, it’s how to have grit both on and off the field.