Cherie Animashaun holding a copy of Compass:Her Steps in the Right Direction at Evanston Lighthouse Rotary's Empowering Girls Event in March.

She has already written two books, established a non-profit organization to help middle school girls, organized a career development seminar for youngsters, and says she’s been “doing these kind of events with kids since I was 10.”

And, oh yes, she has just wrapped up her junior year. In high school.

17-year-old Cherie Animashaun is the founder of Her Rising Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to helping girls ages 10-14 navigate the challenges of adolescence, while also getting a glimpse of what they might want to become as adults.

“Girls Who Lead” is Her Rising’s event on Saturday at Fleetwood-Jourdain Center.

100 girls will be able to attend free workshops on engineering, computer science, culinary arts, community leadership, screen writing, or dance. Experts including college professors are donating their time to lead the sessions.

Every available slot has a child taking it, and Animashaun hopes to “see a bunch of smiles on their faces” when the day is finished.

Many of the participants are from Evanston/Skokie District 65, where Animashaun went to elementary and middle school. Other students are coming from other parts of the Chicago area.

Animashaun lives in “Skevanston,” attending Evanston Township High School her freshman and sophomore years. Now she’s at Niles West.

While Animashaun has been interested in education since she was a little kid (“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher”), and has volunteered at camp and school programs, the Her Rising Institute was established last fall.

The Institute is an outgrowth of two self-help books that Animashaun wrote, called “Compass: Her Steps in the Right Direction.” The books (one for adults, one for teens) have tips on organization, motivation, and how to make it through what may seem insurmountable.

Animashaun says focusing on mental health has always been important for her, and she hopes the books can help, particularly with “de-stressing strategies.”

The original plan was to donate proceeds from book sales to charity, but Animashaun said it made more sense to establish an organization of her own, hence Her Rising, with the motto “illuminating women and youth across every horizon with the power of words.”

The non-profit received grants from the Evanston Community Foundation and from the Hershey Company to help cover the costs of “Girls Who Lead.”

There will be a second such workshop later this summer. That one will have a registration fee, with the money going to fund a scholarship.

While she’s obviously a self-starter, this 17-year-old does have role models.

“Definitely my mom,” she says. “Also Michelle Obama.”

And, Animashaun says, her “relationship with God” is vital. “That’s what guides everything I do,” she adds.

In the various things she’s done over her young life, Animshaun says (in response to a question from Evanston Now … she didn’t bring this up on her own) that lots of the kids tell her how impressive and accomplished she is.

“I tell them,” Animashaun says, “that you’re going to be ten times better than I am.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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