Future First Citizen: Zahra DeShaw contributes on many fronts

February 2020 Posted in People
Silverton Future First Citizen Zahra DeShaw. Photo by Dixon Bledsoe.

Silverton Future First Citizen Zahra DeShaw. Photo by Dixon Bledsoe.

By Dixon Bledsoe

Awesome grades? No-brainer. Mad skills in everything from public speaking to leadership? Certainly. Lots of awards for speech and debate, academic excellence, and benevolent, community-centric volunteer? You bet.

Zahra DeShaw is a young woman who not only has taken loads of Advance Placement classes in Psychology, Anatomy, Physiology, Language and Composition, as well as Environmental Science, she not only knows how to spell S.T.E.M. and what it means, she understands what it means for high school students in general and young women in particular. And it doesn’t intimidate her since she has a great grasp on Precalculus and Trigonometry.

Silverton’s Future First Citizen 2019 is multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary. She volunteers at the Silverton Community Dinner Wednesday nights at the Silverton Christian Church, where they feed as many as 400 people each week. She has been a peer tutor and mentor to an autistic student, helps train other students in speech and debate while coaching them in social skills, work etiquette and eloquence of speaking.

Zahra has served on the teen council for the Goal Women’s Summit through Portland State Women’s Leadership Program, one of 21 young women selected to create a leadership summit on empowerment and success for young women. She has volunteered at Silverton Rotary’s Daddy-Daughter Dance and in Rotary’s Interact Club. DeShaw has worked through the high school leadership program to fundraise money for the successful Tree of Giving, which buys Christmas presents for more than
100 kids each year.

An Indian American, Zahra is a member of the Equity Team at Silverton High School, selected by Principal Wade Lockett to be one of four students to reform school policies and design professional development for staff to improve equity at the school.

“There are not enough good things to say about Zahra,” Lockett said. “She has been a force in helping move the culture of the school in a positive direction. She honors and appreciates every person in the school for who they are and is a great example for her peers.”

She quickly realized the best role for the group was to teach the teachers. “It isn’t the students we needed to start with on issues of equity and diversity. It is the people who are going to teach them and the subject.”

Zahra has won awards as an Advance Placement Scholar, a leadership award in the Young Leaders program, and was a finalist at State in Original Oratory in the speech and debate competition.

She loves to spend her free time with her family and many cousins, helping the younger ones do homework or just reading to them.

“Just being with them is fun and rewarding,” she said.

She and her friends, like Brady Tavernier, hang out regularly at Main Street Bistro where they talk about societal and political challenges, read, or just unwind. He is totally impressed by his friend.

“Zahra is undeniably a trailblazer within the Silverton community,” Brady said. “Being her friend has not only made me recognize the uncompromising dedication she puts into all of her work within the community and the high school but has motivated me to do my part as well.”

Silverton Mayor Kyle Palmer, a member of the Future First Citizen Selection Committee, added, “This is the most talented group of finalists we have ever seen and each one of them is deserving of the recognition. That said, Zahra’s poise and awareness of her role in the world, both currently and in various prospective roles in the future, stunned the panel, helping convince us that she was going to spend her life fighting for the needs of others around her. Exactly what this award embodies. With this group of nominees, it’s easy to forget we are talking to 17 and 18-year-olds. The service to others is incredible.”

Asked what she would do differently coming in as a brand-new freshman, she is self-assured in her thoughts.

“I would definitely spend more time with friends and family making memories, since we are never as young as we are right now,” Zahra said.

One day she really enjoyed was competing in a speech and debate tournament then racing home to get dressed for the Winter Formal, where she was selected as a princess.

Her best memory? “Supporting each other in school and in an amazingly supportive town. Helping Homecoming Court and parade participants get ready to celebrate.  Just helping create a community of people having fun.”

Was she surprised at being selected the 2019 Future First Citizen?

“Absolutely. I didn’t feel great about my interview. When the committee called me that day to the high school conference room, saying they had a few more questions, I walked into balloons, the selection committee, and friends congratulating me. I was shocked, no doubt about it.”

Funny though. No one who knows this young woman was surprised at all.

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