Meet DeAnna McLeary Sherman, co-founder of True Star Media

Tell us about yourself and the work that you do?

I'm DeAnna McLeary Sherman, co-founder of True Star Media, a media company and digital agency led by Chicago youth. True Star provides training and real-world work experience for urban youth that teaches them how to develop, create, and market digital content on a platform that empowers them to forge their own paths.

Give us a little insight about your journey that got you where you are today.

True Star started itself. The org's co-founder Na-Tae’ Thompson and I came together to do one program, a journalism program to help students with their writing skills. There were 17 students who put together a 2-page newsletter, they named it ’True Star’, because they wanted to speak their truth and shine like stars. After the initial program, students wanted to learn more about: media, design, create magazine layouts, and every other aspect of production. Because of this, we started a graphic design program. Over the next two years, we added other programs. At some point, I went to Na-Tae’s house and said, I think we got something, I think we should start our own organization. Now, 16 years later, we went from that newsletter to a 52-page glossy magazine, a radio show, and now a digital platform, all for youth and by youth. We have provided on-the-job training to over 10,000 Chicago youth, empowering them to find their voice, discover their path, and prepare for life.

Can you tell us about some success stories you've had with your business or anything of which you are extremely proud?

We have many success stories, recently we were awarded the Google Impact Challenge grant award, which was a big honor considering the competition and from an innovative tech giant like Google. There are moments like winning that challenge that validate you and your vision, give you a feather in your cap so to speak, and the energy to keep pushing forward. We have so many success stories of students who have come through our program, I am proud of all our ’stars’. One that stands out is Ricky Powell, Ricky grew up in a tough housing project, amongst a lot of violence and other trappings of poverty. Ricky started our program in high school and when he found True Star, he found a second family. Ricky was nurtured through the True Star photography program, taught technical skills and communication skills. After high school, he went on to work for True Star as a promotions assistant and was instrumental in promoting the organization and recruiting students. Ricky then landed a job at Budweiser as a district manager and recently started his own promotions company. Ricky broke the cycle of poverty for him and his children. True Star was a big part of Ricky’s village of supporters that helped him see his gifts and talents, and opened his mind to bigger world.