CYC Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. Our heroes are individuals, couples, or even businesses who exemplify CYC’s core values, and who go above and beyond expectations to make Cincinnati a better place. With a vision that all children will achieve their full potential, we are thrilled to recognize students who work hard to overcome their circumstances and defy the odds. In September we featured mentor Lori Meyer as a CYC Hero because of the profound investment she made in two young girls. This month, we recognize one of those girls: Shandreanna Martin. With her positivity, perseverance, and gratitude, she is determined to make a difference, even at her young age.
Growing up in Washington Park, Shandreanna Martin had vibrant dreams and intense ambition. Unfortunately, these dreams and ambitions often left her feeling isolated and different from her peers. She remembers the feeling as something akin to running a gauntlet, trying to hold on to her dreams amidst so much negativity.
“You’re beat up because you are trying to learn or because your grades are better than others,” she remembers. “In the face of this adversity it is easy to lose hope and give in to those pulling you back, pulling you down. It can almost become a mantra: ‘you’ll never get out of this cycle.’”
Fortunately, her school enabled her to participate in a lunchtime tutoring program which ultimately connected her with Lori Meyer. Though Shandreanna originally enrolled for help with math, she received so much more. They became like family, and Lori speaks highly of Shandreanna.
“Shandreanna’s work ethic and tenacity amaze me,” she says. “She never expected someone to carry her weight.”
And it wasn’t always easy. There were often problems at home, “When mom wasn’t caring or wasn’t home,” as Shandreanna says. Her grades would suffer, and the isolation and negativity would set in again. But with her mentor Lori at her side, she persevered and made the best of every opportunity presented to her.
When a Kroger manager visited her school and met with a group of the top academic students, Shandreanna put her name on a list of those interested in a job. She began working at Kroger soon after. When her family was evicted from their apartment, Shandreanna accepted Lori’s invitation to move in with her, and despite the unrest, still made a seamless transition into her first year at the School for the Creative and Performing Arts. When Lori connected her with a summer study abroad opportunity, Shandreanna jumped at the chance, even though she hadn’t ever been out of the country before. When finances became tight during college, she worked third shift while maintaining a full course load. When problems arose back at home, she transferred from Northern Kentucky University to University of Cincinnati in order to be closer to family, and still graduated on time and with a strong resume.
Every experience seems to fill Shandreanna with a renewed sense of gratitude. She describes her first job after college – teaching English in China: “It was not always easy being of color in the Jilin province, but it was an experience that helped shaped my character and gave me a broad understanding of different cultures. It also made me realize that an organization like CYC provides opportunities in the U.S. that can only be dreamed of in other countries.”
Her gratitude fuels a strong desire to give back to the community. She dreams of inspiring generations of students like herself, of showing them that they, too, can overcome the negativity of their surroundings and reach for their dreams. She has already given of her time, speaking at CYC events like the annual Trivia Night, so that people can truly understand the positive impact that just one person can have.
“Shandreanna’s story is a powerful one,” says CYC President and CEO Jane Keller, “It illustrates the sometimes-untapped potential of our city’s youth, and the amazing things they can achieve as long as just one person believes in them.”
That potential is currently being utilized to serve youth in the local justice system. Shandreanna has recently begun her position as a Youth Worker for the Campbell County Juvenile Detention Center, where she provides daily care and supervision to the children. She is loving both the kids she serves and her coworkers, and is thrilled to know she is supporting her community.
“Shandreanna is an amazing human being who cares deeply about others,” says Lori. “Truly before herself, she is always thinking of what others need. She is selfless.”
For her enduring selflessness despite the many obstacles in her life, and her perseverance and positivity, we are happy to recognize Shandreanna Martin as a CYC Hero.
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CYC Heroes is a monthly feature recognizing individuals who go above and beyond expectations to serve the CYC community. Heroes come in many shapes and sizes: mentors, students, ambassadors, employees, donors, volunteers, and board members. Know someone who makes CYC stronger? Submit your CYC Hero nomination to Kate Elliott, at email@example.com