Two years ago, Kokomo native Jaedyn Zavala went on a road trip. The trip, which was filmed to create the documentary “State of Change,” opened Zavala’s eyes to what his home state had to offer.
He also learned some things about himself.
“State of Change” was recently nominated for a regional Emmy Award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Lower Great Lakes Chapter. The documentary was made possible by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and numerous Indiana businesses, banks and government departments.
Produced by Roadtrip Nation, a nonprofit focused on career exploration, the documentary follows Zavala and two other Indiana college students on a road trip around the state to meet professionals in a variety of fields.
Zavala, at the time the documentary was filmed, was going into his freshman year at Grace College. After three changes of his major and one transfer of schools, Zavala is now going into his junior year at Indiana University Kokomo. He credits the road trip for multiple things, one of them being confidence.
“Before that, I was very introverted and I would not go up and talk to random people,” Zavala said.
The documentary forced him to interact with many people he barely knew and share personal things with them. One of the students’ main tasks was interviewing the professionals they met on the road.
“At first it was kind of a shock because it was the biggest thing I’ve done,” Zavala said. "I was really nervous because I would be interviewing people and I had no public speaking skills at all. But after a day in, I felt more comfortable because I got to know everyone better and it was exciting after that.”
The trip also made him think more seriously about what he wanted his future to look like.
When he started college shortly after the documentary was filmed, he thought he wanted to do a pre-veterinarian track. Then he switched to youth ministry. Looking back, however, he said meeting people in business and sports medicine made him think about the major he ultimately has chosen: sports management.
“Business was something that I never really thought of just because I thought it was math and dealing with people,” Zavala said. “But after that, I figured out that it’s not really what I thought it was, it’s actually something I’d be good at.”
He kept up his interest in sports through all of his changes in majors and that ultimately made him realize what he was passionate about.
“A lot of people go into it focused on something like, ‘Oh I want to be a doctor or I know I’m going to be a scientist or whatever’ and with that they block out their hobbies and stuff that they like and enjoy,” Zavala said.
“I ended up thinking that stuff isn’t for me but then having the other stuff that I liked around me and doing it in my free time, it helped me focus on what I wanted to do.”
Being on a documentary set also got Zavala into photography and video making. He has a GoPro and a camera now and is going to make a video for his dad’s soccer camp this summer.
Zavala also learned quite a bit from the two other students who were from different parts of the state and were older than him.
“Being with other college students helps to see what else is in Indiana,” Zavala said.
Zavala’s long-term goal is to own a sports complex in Indiana. His dad has owned soccer complexes ever since he stopped playing professional soccer, and Zavala played soccer until two-knee surgeries ended his ability to play. His passion for the sports will continue through coaching and helping youth grow as people and athletes.
“Most coaches see it as, ‘You need to win’ but I see it as, ‘As long as a person ends up better than they came in as, then that’s improvement’,” Zavala said. “I like development more than winning.”
One of the lessons he took away from the road trip was the importance of friendships in a team setting. He learned that it’s harder to get mad at teammates when you have strong friendships with them.
After the documentary experience and being introduced to some of the innovation that is happening in the state, Zavala is pretty sure he wants to stay in Indiana.
“It showed me that we have more than just cornfields and stuff,” he said.