Zakiya Cush

CEO & Founder
Cush Center for Learning
1st Year Med Student

About Me

When I was younger, I wanted “to do hair” as a professional cosmetologist. However, medicine became my passion after my first medical internship in high school.

From unsupportive professors, employers, and school administrators who did not believe in my abilities, I endured my share of missteps in medical school. I kept going despite this and I am proud of my work. I continue to work through my medical school journey to become a dermatologist. From my mistakes I created my education non-profit, The Cush Center for Learning, Inc. and the Medical Pledge initiative.

I founded The Cush Center for Learning in 2012 to give underserved students an opportunity to access Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (S.T.E.A.M). Our goal is to provide programs and services that encourage learning, growth and innovation among youth in S.T.E.A.M fields in America and around the world.

How was your experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school?

My STEM classes and teachers in middle school and high school were both supportive and encouraging. I learned a great deal from them and for that I am very grateful.

What do you do to unwind?

I enjoy poetry, traveling and cooking.

What motivated you to start the Cush Center for Learning?

I started the Cush Center for Learning as a pre-med undergrad at the CUNY City College of New York. Having had the opportunity to tutor and mentor young students in underserved areas of NYC, I understood the impact that opportunity and exposure can have on young minds. My triumphs as a pre-medical student allowed me to create my business.

Tell us about STEAM beyond Borders

We created the S.T.E.A.M Beyond Borders (SBB) program to reinforce our global mission for S.T.E.A.M. The SBB program is an immersive program that seeks to connect students with S.T.E.A.M communities internationally. The inaugural SBB program launches June 2017 and it will host 20 handpicked high school students for a weeklong session of curated workshops with innovative tech companies in countries like, Mexico, South Africa and Amsterdam, Netherlands. The program will feature speaking engagements and workshops to expose students to the international science and tech industry.

What is the coolest thing about running your STEM initiatives?

Being my own boss and working with others to accomplish my goals is the best part of running my own company.

What is the most challenging part?

It’s frustrating when we are unable to find common ground among our differences.

Ever felt discouraged blazing this path?

I never felt discouraged since medicine is my passion and my education seemed to offset any missteps I had. I am driven by my innate passion for what I do, so I use this as motivation to drive me toward my goals.

Who are the people that keep you going?

My biggest cheerleaders are my mom, dad, siblings, grandparents and the great female leaders in black history. Shirley Chisholm, Hazel Scott, Harriett Tubman, Winnie Mandela and so many other black women from the past inspire me. Our history as a people also inspires me and I use that as my strength.

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

Forget the naysayers and never give up on your journey. Also, do not project your expectations for yourself onto others. If you have high standards, goals, and dreams you wish to accomplish, then do it! But never expect those who come into your life to have the same values; they often do not and that is fine. I have found that if you stay focused on your own path, you will always succeed. When you experience failure, just use it as ammunition for success!

What do you want to say to up and coming Melanin Genius?

Be honored whenever you’re asked to share your story with others. You have no idea who you will inspire, so be vocal about your path because it will help future generations.

Want to get in touch with this MelaninGenius?


We love to hear from you! You can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.



Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?