Student Leader Spotlight: Shayel Chocron

By: Marcela Homsany  |  November 2, 2022

By: Marcela Homsany

A Girl on a Mission- Bringing People Together One Project at a Time.

While some complain that the world is filled with injustice and misrepresentation, others spend their lives seeking solutions. Shayel Chocron (Stern ‘26) belongs to the latter group. Born and raised in Venezuela, Shayel was exposed to the ravages of poverty, inequality, and discrimination at a young age. She decided it was time for change and embarked on a journey to better the world. Shayel wanted to create something that was easy to carry, light, and impactful and decided to write a book. “In May of 2019,” she explains, “I wrote my first book called, ‘I Believe in You, Do You?’ The book is from the perspective of a teenager, written in order to help motivate and inspire human beings to reach their highest potential. With the profits, I was able to donate to various orphanages, public schools, and hospitals for women, children, and debilitated adults in both Venezuela and Panama. Books of this nature are important because they provide valuable guidance for all those who read it. The book helps to guide and support those in need.” Her book, written in English, was published and sold in two local libraries, and copies were donated to the Ministry of Culture of Panama, specifically the Academia of English department. Shayel first registered how truly impactful the book was when a young girl with Collins Syndrome expressed how ‘I Believe in You, Do You?’ helped build her confidence and feel less alone. Currently, Shayel is working on translating the book to Spanish and donating copies to the city’s public children’s hospital.

After her book was initially published, Shayel realized how big of change she can make and launched her organization, Helping You by Sha, which she described as a “generic movement.” After further inspection, it becomes clear that it is anything but ordinary. She explained, “Helping You by Sha, is an organization that helps, support, motivate, and inspire those in need through recreational activities, speakers, conferences, and creative activities that help to create a foundation for individual growth. I work with psychologists and specialists since they are the greatest help when it comes to providing valuable feedback towards bettering the organization’s goals. This organization was made by young people for young people.”  Today, the organization has about thirty-five volunteers and conducts over 70 projects spanning from a fundraising zumba class to a play featuring a young girl as part if her Make-A-Wish. 

Bettering the world is not her only passion, Shayel has a deep love for the performing arts, which she incorporates into her mission. “Recently, two of my projects have been a mix of theater and performing arts, which are also passions of mine and it’s something I feel is a great tool to help others as well. I produced and directed a play called, ‘What is Not Forgotten Never Dies.” It’s about the Holocaust and was showcased in Panama in January in honor of the anniversary of the liberation of Aushwitz.” Interestingly enough, Shayel made it a point to feature a cast including generational survivors, Jews, and non-Jews. By cultivating a diverse cast, she was able to educate and spread more awareness of the realities of the Holocaust. The public response to the play was that of shock. Shayel explains that just a glimpse into the realities of the Holocaust was enough to bring people to tears The public was so touched by this play that some advocated for this play to be shown in schools across the  country, as many schools, Shayel explains, no longer educate their students about the Holocaust. 

The second project was a talent show for the mental and physically disabled. “It was great; we went through an auditioning process, and the volunteer judges and I really committed  to making this an authentic experience for the contestants. The day of the show was very inspirational because we really saw the participants’ capabilities- Yes, they have their disabilities, but they have something special inside that the naked eye usually looks over. We are able to take notice of each person and their talent.” Shayel further explained,“Each performer had an opportunity to act, sing, dance, paint, essentially to express themselves artistically. So, I wanted to do this project as I believe the ability to express yourself is an important and beautiful skill. We provided the participants with the opportunity to not only express themselves artistically, but also to feel important as they stood on stage demonstrating their talents.” Shayel continues to run her organization and various projects despite moving to Panama, and studying in the United States. 

Shayel found motivation for change through the struggles of her home country, Venezuela. The negligence of her country’s government left it in ruins. Armed robberies and kidnappings are common, which, in addition to the poverty-ridden streets, prevent civilians from leaving their homes after nightfall or walking down the sidewalk with their phone out. Shayel explains,“Venezuela is very dangerous and poor. It needs lots of help due to its food, water, electricity, and job insecurity. The world also inspired me, because at the time I started this organization, I felt as though the world was powered off and sad. So, when I was fifteen, I set out to change the world, converting those ideas, expectations, and goals into projects.” Her dedication, love, and innovation is the cause of positive change for a variety of people in need and will continue to be so in the future.