Image Source: https://www.oregonlive.com/
De La Salle North Catholic High School didn’t have a Black Student Union. So TreNisha Shearer decided to start one.
She’s also a student council member, a student ambassador and senior class representative. And with a group of friends, she organized an African American read-in for Black History Month.
For those and other achievements, Shearer, 17, won the Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metro’s 2021 Youth of the Year for the second year in a row. The award comes with a $1,000 scholarship, which she said is “definitely going to go towards college.”
She will go on to compete for the Oregon Youth of the Year title in mid-April, but she’s unfazed.
“I’ve gotten much better at these Zoom speeches and stuff,” she told The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Shearer grew up in North Portland’s New Columbia neighborhood, surrounded by people who went to the same school — Rosa Parks Elementary — and neighbors who were also close friends.
She lives with her mom, three siblings, terrier-chihuahua mix Boujie and a bunny named Cookie Monster.
The dedicated high schooler has been involved with the Regency Boys & Girls Club since kindergarten. It’s in the same building as Rosa Parks, so she started going there every day after school and hasn’t stopped since.
“It’s really made me who I am,” she said.
Over the years, Shearer has volunteered extensively with the group — helping at the Children’s Museum, making lunches for people who are homeless or doing whatever the community needs help with. Shearer said she met her best friend, Luvenia, at the club as well.
“They’ve brought me closer to people in my own community,” she said.
Last summer, she created a short film, “Black ‘til it’s Backwards,” while participating in the Virtual Youth Media Academy hosted by The Representation Project, a non-profit focused on documentary film and activism.
The film includes Shearer reciting a poem she wrote for the African American read-in she hosted last year. It brought some who watched it, including her childhood mental health counselor, Nicole McMullin, to tears.
“It was really moving and extremely well-done in its simplicity and just speaks for her community,” said McMullin, who has known Shearer since she was 7.
Shearer said she was inspired to write the poem after seeing many of her friends posting on Snapchat about incarcerated friends and family.
“There’s always racial injustice in the world, you know, and there’s always people of color getting locked up for anything, really,” Shearer said. “In Black History Month, in February 2020, I was just really noticing an increase in the amount of people who were posting that someone in their life had been locked up.”
Shearer decided to organize an African American read-in with a group of friends after noticing that her school, which has a large proportion of Black students, did not have events planned despite the month’s special designation, she said.
Her sophomore English teacher, Marie Argento, helped organize the event, which was hosted at De La Salle as part of a nationwide initiative by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English.
Argento said Shearer was quiet and thoughtful and a great writer.
“She just was sort of beyond her years in terms of her maturity and level of understanding of literature,” she said.
In addition to her extensive involvement with school activities and the Boys & Girls Club, Shearer has worked as a teacher’s assistant at St. Clare preschool and an office assistant at the advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy as part of De La Salle’s corporate work study program once a week.
Her older sister, Teya Shearer, also won Youth of the Year in 2018 and 2019 and was a big role model for her, Shearer said, as well as everyone else she met growing up in the Boys & Girls Club.
Now, Shearer hopes to be that role model for someone else.
“I definitely want to provide guidance to the younger people of color in the world,” she said. “I want to give an example of being able to do something that maybe they wouldn’t see themselves doing.”
She hopes to attend Georgia State University and study something related to business and entrepreneurship. She’s been keeping busy during the pandemic, delving deeper into filmmaking and continuing to be involved with activities at school and the Boys & Girls Club.
“I just want to do something that contributes back,” she said.
Story Source: https://www.oregonlive.com/portland/2021/03/this-portland-high-school-senior-has-won-youth-of-the-year-2-times-now-she-wants-to-be-a-role-model-for-other-youth-of-color.html?outputType=amp