alumni feature, public policy

Senior Policy Analyst Responds to Mass Shooting

While working at Everytown, Liz planned and ran an advocacy day and press conference with grassroots volunteers and gun violence survivors in Mississippi.

Just two months after Liz Zelnick (Los Angeles, 2009-10) left Everytown for Gun Safety to start a new role as the Senior Policy Analyst for the Massachusetts Treasurer’s Office, she listened to breaking news about a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And after almost four years of “going toe-to-toe with the gun lobby” with Everytown, Liz found herself seeking solace in a movement she so recently had led. 

“The day after the shooting when I was feeling really low. I walked outside my office and stumbled into a legislative advocacy day run by MOMS Demand Action here in Massachusetts. I saw them when I needed to see them most. It warms my heart to know that the movement is going to continue and get stronger without me.”
MOMS Demand Action is an organization that formed shortly after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. Nearly a year after it formed, it united with what was formally known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns. This is one of the organizations that Liz landed an internship with while earning a Master’s of Public Administration at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service just a few years after JVC.

“I have lost friends to gun violence and my community was impacted because I had a lot of friends who went to Virginia Tech when I was younger. Gun violence has always been top of my mind and I was basically in a position to work directly on an issue, for an organization that was making the most impact in the country.”

Liz Zelnick (Los Angeles, 2009-10)

The organization went on to merge with what is now known as Everytown for Gun Safety, a community of over 4 million people dedicated to ending gun violence and bolstered by the recent efforts of the #NeverAgain Movement. And Liz’s experience with Everytown was especially meaningful for her:

 “I wanted to get up and go to work every day. I felt passionately about the work even before I started working at Everytown. I have lost friends to gun violence and my community was impacted because I had a lot of friends who went to Virginia Tech when I was younger. Gun violence has always been top of my mind and I was basically in a position to work directly on an issue, for an organization that was making the most impact in the country. I felt like it was an opportunity that I absolutely couldn’t turn down and I’m glad I didn’t. It was a really fantastic job.”

Liz’s JVC year as a community organizer with People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) in Los Angeles furthered this passion for advocacy. Working with tenants on the west side of LA to promote supportive housing and preservation, Liz learned both hard and soft skills that proved invaluable in her time at NYU and Everytown. And, of course, the JVC values continue to be integral to her life outside work:

Protest for the Housing Right Coalition of Los Angeles that Liz helped to organize during her JV year.
Protest for the Housing Right Coalition of Los Angeles that Liz helped to organize during her JV year.
Liz and fellow Jesuit Volunteers during her service year on a hiking trip in Yosemite.
Liz and fellow Jesuit Volunteers during her service year on a hiking trip in Yosemite.

 “I was at a potluck once and I was chatting with this woman who I’d just met and there was a bunch of food left over. And people were just going to throw it away and we were like, whoa, whoa, whoa—we can figure out how to deal with this leftover food. Who’s taking it home? Can we donate it? Then we both looked at each other and were like, ‘did you do JVC?’”

Liz continues to fight for social change through her work with Massachusetts Treasurer Golberg, who she describes as a “trailblazer.” Her portfolio includes tackling the wage gap and improving student debt education, in addition to addressing other issues of inequity for the people of Massachusetts. And her time with JVC helped her get to the front lines of social justice.

“The thread throughout my entire career has been connecting with people. Whether organizing a community meeting around losing section-8 status or working directly with homeless veterans to get into long-term housing or advancing legislation within state government, I have connected with people. To this end, I definitely got a great deal of practice and learned a lot from my experience of JVC.”