116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — Among what Shay Church-Roberts is most proud of during her time at Liberty High School is organizing an event last year for students to share their experiences.
“So many people came up to me and my peers afterwards, (saying) ‘the things that you guys said and you shared with us that really opened our minds,’” Church-Roberts said. “That's what we want. We wanted people to be talking about it."
Church-Roberts, 18, is president of Liberty High’s Black Student Union. She said the Black Student Union was started last October to give students a safe space to speak out about their experiences and not feel alone.
Spanish teacher Angie Ungs said she is proud of the leadership Church-Roberts showed during the student-led, anti-racism event, as well as during her senior year.
“The student body really looks up to her and she has honed her positive leadership skills,” Ungs said.
Church-Roberts is also on the track team, president of the school’s book club and volunteers in the community. Part of that volunteer work has involved planning protests and community events.
Church-Roberts is the first in her family to graduate high school and one of 275 students who graduate Sunday from Liberty High at the Xtream Arena.
English teacher Kim Sleezer said Church-Roberts is positive, resilient and someone who has a lot of empathy for others. She is confident Church-Roberts is “going to make a big difference in a lot of people's lives.”
By listening to others and having honest dialogue, even with people she might not agree with, Church-Roberts is an example other people need to emulate, Sleezer said.
“She's very respectful to those that have different opinions and yet she's very strong in her beliefs,” Sleezer said.
It’s been an overwhelming year, Church-Roberts said. Her older sister passed away earlier this year. She said the support she’s received from teachers and administrators has kept her motivated, as well as going to therapy and using track as an outlet.
The summer of her junior year, Church-Roberts enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve. Two weeks after graduation, she will go to Fort Jackson in South Carolina for basic combat training and advanced individual training for human resources.
Church-Roberts then will start school in spring 2023 at Alabama State University, a historically Black college.
Having moved around her whole life, Church-Roberts said she’s excited to start a new chapter in a new place. While she wants to start her career in business administration, Church-Roberts also has interest in teaching and political science.
“One day, I might run for president,” she said.
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