Senior Audrey Zeff pursues passion in politics and advocacy


Courtesy of Audrey Zeff

Senior Audrey Zeff poses with California Congressman Lou Correa during her internship on Capitol Hill.

Abby Hyken

Ever since she watched the political drama, “The West Wing,” at age 14, senior Audrey Zeff has been passionate about political advocacy. 

“I was figuring out what I wanted to do [with my future] and I knew that I wanted to do something to fix systemic issues,” Zeff said. “So, I wanted to be a doctor because I figured that would help people on a larger scale, but then I found politics [through the show].”

Since 2018, Zeff has taken many steps, both close and far from home, to pursue her passion, from interning on Capitol Hill to starting an environmental advocacy group at her synagogue, Shearith Israel. 

In 2021, Zeff worked with others from her synagogue to create a Georgia subgroup of the Jewish Youth Climate Movement (JCYM). The group works to fight for environmental justice and limit climate change.

“A woman from my temple asked if I wanted to start a subgroup [of JCYM] in Georgia and that it would be really cool,” Zeff said. “It started with a few friends and people I knew from synagogue, so we had like, maybe eight people showing up to the meetings last year, which was enough. And everyone’s really passionate, which I like.”

Through this organization, Zeff works to get people engaged with the environment and increase awareness of environmental issues in Georgia. 

“Last year, we had this initiative to stop mining that was going to happen in the Okefenokee Swamp, and we made a whole video to raise awareness on it,” Zeff said. “And this year, we’re actually starting a new advocacy project about mining companies putting dust and ash into Georgia towns. [It] leads to people getting cancer from these companies’ lack of regulation.”

Other Midtown students, such as junior Mischa Pollock, also participate in the environmental group and applaud Zeff for her leadership initiative. 

“Audrey is a great leader,” Pollock said. “She started the whole group pretty much on her own last year, and now it’s grown to over 30 people. You can tell she’s super passionate about what we do and she wants to help the community and environment as much as she can.”

Aside from her advocacy work at her temple, Zeff knew she wanted to step further in the political world by interning with Congressman Lou Correa of the 46th district of California. 

“I started researching opportunities within the field of politics and applied for a summer internship on Capitol Hill,” Zeff said. “I was there with a few other interns, and we were tasked with taking their constituent calls and sending emails. I got to go to a few hearings, took notes and wrote memos. I also helped to write a resolution, which was very exciting.”

Along the way, Zeff has rallied support from her parents and friends toward her political involvement. Zeff’s father, Ken Zeff, also has a background in politics.

“I’m super proud of her. Whatever she’s interested in, we’re interested in,” Ken Zeff said. “We want to support her. I guess what I’ve been impressed with is that politics is complicated and it takes time to understand the details, but she takes time to understand the nuance. It can be very good and bad. She takes time to understand the complexities that are part of policy.”

Although Zeff’s mother, Julie Zeff, does not participate in politics much, she shows her support for Zeff in other ways.

“[My husband] also has a passion for politics,” Julie Zeff said. “So, that’s one of the things that I always loved about him because I never really got involved. So when she has a passion for it, I just feel like it’s so important. It’s something that came naturally for my husband and I was excited that she also had an interest in it, if it meant that she was gonna end up in that world and be aware of the things that are going on and hopefully give back to the world in a meaningful way.”

Aside from verbal support, Zeff’s parents also try to expose her to new opportunities for her to pursue her passions.

“We try to share opportunities that we have,” Ken Zeff said. “We’ve taken her to fundraisers and when I get the opportunity to hear political leaders, I try to bring her with. We don’t do anything more than try to give her ideas of ways to get connected. I think as parents our job is just to expose her to opportunities.”

Zeff’s close friend, senior Lacey Berreth, has supported her through all of her pursuits. 

“Ever since I’ve known Audrey, she’s always been talking about [politics],” Berreth said. “I can see it’s one of her true passions, we always joke that she’s going to be president one day. And then when it comes to her other passions, she runs an environmental group through her synagogue and I’ve become a member of that, and I’ll go to meetings and support her in that way as well.”

Moving forward, Zeff plans to continue down the path of politics in college and wants to major in international relations. 

“I really enjoyed [the internship], but I can also see how it’s not sustainable,” Zeff said. “So I would love to continue working in politics and then maybe move to the private sector to a nonprofit. I think finding the area to narrow down and commit to, like education, would be a lot of fun.”

In the future, Julie Zeff hopes that Zeff continues in politics and learns all that she can. 

“I hope she continues to practice balancing the impact she makes with learning what there still is to do,” Julie Zeff said. “She’s full of thirst and can’t wait to learn.”