For those who are not familiar with you, what is your story?
Hi, I’m Sherry Shu! I’m currently a high school student in Grade 11 at St. Robert Catholic High School. I’m a volunteer social issues writer at INKspire who helps with programming, and I’m also the founder of Find Your Story, which is a student-run, non-profit organization that organizes workshops for aspiring young writers. I’ve always been an eager student who liked English, writing, and using fictional characters to tell stories.
Storytelling has been an important part of my identity. I’ve always loved learning about the world and asking big questions, so that’s partly why my story is about journalism. I’m also someone who enjoys public speaking because I like using the power of my voice to express an opinion or change people’s points of view.
Another part of my story is helping with initiatives that contribute to my community. I care about social justice issues, advocacy, and the environment. So I’m hoping that throughout my life and career, I can help people and make a difference in the world. I’m excited to continue pursuing unique opportunities and finding joy in my work.
What are the biggest things you have taken away from your journey?
A big lesson that I’ve learned from creating new initiatives is the importance of getting started instead of fixating on making your project perfect. What you do will never be perfect, so it’s worth it to take a risk when the opportunity presents itself and have fun while doing it. Figure out your mistakes as they come, and you’ll be able to accomplish something you’re proud of.
Another lesson is taking risks. It’s important to try new things that you’re interested in instead of thinking you should follow only one passion. Writing is a skill that I’ve excelled at, so I thought I needed to focus all of my energy on it. But I’ve realized it’s okay to explore other interests or subject areas. You can create new skills and build your unique personality based on what you love.
What was the most important thing that you learned this year?
The most important thing I learned this year is the importance of staying positive and caring about your happiness above all else. Everyone was stuck inside for so long, so our moods and productivity declined. I’d constantly berate myself for not finishing enough things. However, I learned to find opportunities to feel happy, like talking with friends over a voice call or playing board games with my family. It’s best not to force yourself to be productive without ensuring that you’re happy first.
How do you stay motivated in your losses and grounded in your wins?
When the things I do are unsuccessful, I still get sad or compare myself to others, but the important part is remembering the little successes even if you mess up. Focusing on the things that I accomplished and the people I helped keeps me going.
When it’s about staying motivated, it depends on what you’re doing. If I’m working on things I’m passionate about, like writing an article or starting Find Your Story, I don’t see it as something that I need to push myself to do because it’s for enjoyment. If you’re doing things for the sake of external validation and feeling unmotivated as a result, it’s probably not something that you actually enjoy.
Overall, it helps to know what you enjoy doing and pursue that. Then, make sure that even if you mess up, you can motivate yourself by focusing on the little things in your control and the small successes along the way.
How do you stay resilient in these uncertain times and adapting to this new norm?
The most important thing is finding ways to take care of your health because I feel like everyone sits inside, and we start to slip on our physical health. I try to find opportunities to exercise even when I want to stay inside. Finding time to relax, like listening to music or watching Netflix, takes away from the stress of online school.
The other thing is talking to friends and family. For me, talking to my classmates boosts my mood. You feel more resilient when you have connections and people who care about you. Lastly, I’m trying to get better at scheduling and figuring out how to allocate my time while not over-stressing myself. Things I’ve tried include creating new habits, using a journal to plan each day, and having an accountability buddy.
Can you tell us about Find Your Story and what inspired you to start this project?
I founded an organization in April of 2020 called Find Your Story. It’s a non-profit youth organization focused on reigniting youth engagement in the language arts and improving access to educational programming for students who need additional support. This all started back when COVID hit, and I realized that many students struggled to access educational opportunities. I knew that students who were just entering high school would struggle the most after everything moved online. I saw that it became harder to connect with teachers or students. It also became more challenging for artists to connect with other writers and stay motivated to do what they love.
During this time, I joined an entrepreneurship camp called the WE Incubation Hub with other talented students who wanted to make a difference in their community. The camp told us to choose an idea that would benefit our community and something we were passionate about. I knew I always loved writing, language arts, public speaking, and reading. I also knew that there weren’t many organizations that exclusively targeted free or virtual programs in the languages for students. So that’s how Find Your Story started.
From then on, I developed many interesting ideas, had talented students and mentors help me along the way, and created this project. So far, we’ve hosted workshops on short story writing, essay writing, letter writing, and have a journalism workshop called News For Youth coming out in collaboration with INKspire. Our team is also planning a journaling initiative to help people cope with mental health problems and stress.
We have many exciting projects in which we’re using the language arts to inspire young people. They can develop writing, speaking, and reading skills, which will help them in post-secondary programs and the job market. It’s been lots of fun over the past year.
Where do you see yourself or your Find Your Story project in the next five years?
I hope that Find Your Story can keep growing into something bigger than it is now, given that we’ve only been established for a year so far. I want the organization to expand to other parts of Canada and the world, offering new opportunities and programs for young people who are interested. With the expansion, I hope to cultivate a community of students who are passionate about writing, speaking, and reading and help them connect with other people in their creative process.
In terms of myself, I’m in the high school phase and still deciding on my career or what I want to major in. I might go into something related to business or the medical sciences, specifically neuroscience and psychology, to help make a difference in the world of mental health. Through Find Your Story and other initiatives, I aim to keep supporting local communities, volunteering, and connecting with people.