Celebrating culture and helping disadvantaged
Sheila Trnjanin first fell in love with volunteering on a cold, rainy November afternoon.
Sheila, then a junior at Centennial High School in Gresham, was helping at the Future Business Leaders of America's mobile food pantry in advance of Thanksgiving weekend. She says that seeing the long line of families waiting for food and support made her understand the importance of giving back and doing something for those less fortunate.
"Being soaked was worth it," she says. "You have to get through the tough moments in life, especially because the people you are helping need the support."
Now a senior, Sheila has completed more than 300 hours of volunteering. While the majority has been with the mobile food pantry, she also has helped at the Oregon Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House and homeless shelters.
"I try to involve myself as much as possible," she says.
Sheila was inspired to push herself after seeing the example her parents set for her. They emigrated to the United States after fleeing from the civil war that tore through their home country of Bosnia, and while growing up Sheila learned about all the difficulties they faced making a new start. Their perseverance made a big impact on their daughter.
"Hearing everything my parents went through makes me want to be even more successful," Sheila says.
That focus on family and culture has been an important part of her life. She has been involved with the Bosniaks Educational and Cultural Organization, a tight-knit community mosque that helps connect Bosnians living in the region through religious and cultural events, since she was little. Sheila helps set up various activities, performs as part of a dance troupe, and travels across the country meeting with other passionate young people.
Sheila has been supported during her volunteer hours by several important people in her life. Her Future Business Leaders adviser, Adriann Hardin, was a driving force for Sheila, while her parents and friends have been there through it all.
"I am very proud of her — she is really incredible," says her mom, Kika Trnjanin. "She has spent so much time doing this work, and has stayed super busy. But she is always looking for ways to give back and do more."
One of Sheila's favorite tasks has been helping at Centennial's nonprofit food pantry, Food for Families, where she stood in the rain on that Thanksgiving afternoon.
The pantry, operated by Future Business Leaders students out of a converted bus, allows her to connect face-to-face with people. Through the organization she has worked at all-day distributions, run community promotions and served as a personal shopper, helping families pick out pantry staples like milk, bread, crackers, soup and other items.
"I like to meet new people and find ways to help them out," Sheila says. "All of this has been about making a big impact, not the hours."
Sheila has been able to balance a busy schedule thanks to good time management. Her favorite classes include Advanced Placement Psychology and Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics. She serves as the senior class president, is a member of the Human Trafficking Awareness Club, and has played varsity volleyball for four years, serving as this year's team captain.
Sheila has been accepted to the University of Oregon in Eugene, where she plans on taking classes at the Clark Honors College. She wants to pursue a political science major while exploring prelaw classes. And she said going to college won't slow her focus on helping others.
"I just want to do as much as I can, and I plan on volunteering throughout my life," Sheila says. "Being named an Amazing Kid shows hard work does pay off."