HeartShare St. Vincent’s exists solely because of our youth. They teach us daily what it means to show up, be our best selves, and, of course, to “Keep Climbing.” They are the Heart of HeartShare and continuously leave an impact on us as much as we hope to leave an impact on them.
The Youth of the Year Award is presented to a youth for their outstanding achievements and for exemplifying the values and principles of HSVS. We had many outstanding applications to choose from, and we know that all our nominees will continue to thrive. We are excited to present this year’s Youth of the Year Award to Shyanne Shepherd.
We sat down with this year’s Youth of the Year, Shyanne, to discuss her journey within the HSVS family and her hopes for the future.
How long have you been part of the HSVS family, and how has it impacted your life?
Shyanne: I’ve been with HSVS since I was 12 years old. And now I’m 24, so half of my life. In the beginning, I thought that this wasn’t life for me. I thought: ‘This is not where I belong. This is not where I fit in.’ But then over time, that feeling changed. It felt like it was actually the best decision for me. Other people were treating me like family alongside the family that you already have. So, shifted from a negative to a positive.
How important is the practice of self-care, and what does that practice look like to you?
Shyanne: Self-care is about maintaining my personal appearance. Taking care of your whole self. Your hygiene, your clothing, your hair. Also, it’s about removing negativity from your life. Finding your peace. When you’re at peace, you feel mentally and physically there. It’s all up to me. You feel uneasy when you let somebody invade your peace or personal space. You start stressing, and you’re not really loving yourself. Maintaining your mental and physical well-being. That’s what self-love and self-care are about.
What do you do if you come across somebody who’s negative or a negative situation? How do you take yourself to that positive place?
Shyanne: I think about everything I have to lose. Is this situation or person going to help me move forward? If not, I move on. I’m not even going to waste my time. I’m not getting paid to argue with you. I just think about everything I have to lose—everything I’d be giving up.
Talk a little about your relationship with therapy. How long has that been part of your life, and what kind of a journey has it been for you?
Shyanne: I’ve been in therapy since I was 9. I started therapy because I had a lot of anger issues. My father put me into therapy, and I wondered why I had to do this. Sit here and talk to somebody. I was so young. I didn’t know the concept of it then. Over time, going helped me realize everything that I was really holding onto. It helped me with my anger. It helped me find mechanisms to cope with my anger. It helped me grow. And at that age, I felt like I had somebody who was actually hearing what I was saying and not just brushing it off. Actually giving me advice on what I should do and keep my head forward. Over the years, therapy has helped me express myself and let some tension out.
What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in life so far?
Shyanne: Proudest accomplishment? Not going to jail. It’s a crazy thing to say, but I’m really happy about that. I never went into a cop car before in my life, and that’s a big thing, especially coming from where I grew up, and the people that I was hanging around. And, of course, going to college. That’s the biggest accomplishment. I never thought I would even finish high school! So, for me to be able to go to college and be almost done, that’s huge. Also, being independent. That’s a real accomplishment for me because, over time, I grew up and became independent. I’m becoming an adult and standing on my own two feet without having financial help from anybody. Especially in New York City, that’s big.
What’s the next big milestone for you? The next big accomplishment?
Shyanne: I’m settling into my career. The beginning stages of gradually entering my career. That’s the next accomplishment for me.
You mentioned hoping to have a career in law enforcement. Where did that inspiration come from?
Shyanne: I was always interested in that show Law and Order, but my awesome foster mother was a retired NYPD officer. So, I’d hear her stories and see her pictures, which inspired me. Watching all those crime shows, I solved the crime way before they were in the show. I think that’s what really pushed me into studying the law and figuring out this is what I like. This is something I’m interested in. I think I could see myself pursuing a career in this.
How do you hope to give back to youth in similar situations as you?
Shyanne: I’d love to create a safe place for youth. Like a haven where they can speak and express themselves. Without having to feel judged or having to feel like somebody is looking down on you. A place where they can hear and learn from others in their circle. Be able to see that they’re not the only ones going through it. They can learn how to overcome their situation. Things like having routine workshops to practice self-care and self-love. Creating a safe place and having that outlet that’s not usually there for them. I’ll make them feel they are not by themselves. Other people can fight with you.