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Orange Schools Program Helps Teen Stay “On Track” and “On the Track”

When people describe Shamable as a runner, it extends to more than just her successful career on the Orange High School Track Team. The 18-year-old never stops running once she starts her day. She leaves home early to catch the school bus, then after a full day at school she is off to track practice. After that, she gets a ride to work for her closing shift and doesn’t get home until nearly midnight every night. Somehow she still manages to fit in even more extracurricular activities throughout the week and, being an outgoing teenage girl, always makes time to hang out with her friends.

Shamable first came to Orange Schools in the 7th grade after relocating to Cleveland from Queens, New York to be closer to her sister. It was at Brady Middle School that she became acquainted with the Beech Brook family. Amy Strom, Middle School social worker at the time, made herself available, and as Shamable recalls, “She was just always there when I needed her to be, it’s like she knew I was about to get in trouble before I did.”

During 8th grade, Shamable was introduced to Casey Durkin, director of Beech Brook’s Orange Schools Project. When she started at Orange High School the following year, Shamable started spending every lunch period in room 113, where Beech Brook services are provided, which is now like a second home.

Shamable spent much of her adolescence bouncing from home to home, living with different friends and family members. Shamable’s living situation left her out of school for an entire two months during the middle of her sophomore year. When she returned, there was an overwhelming amount of work to make up on top of preparing for the crucial Ohio Graduation Tests. Shamable is forever grateful to the Orange High School teachers and Durkin for providing the support she needed when she needed it the most. “She laid out all the work I needed to do,” Shamable said. “She put me back on track, she was just there.”

It is easy to imagine how the chaos and uncertainty of her living situation could negatively affect her life and make it a challenge to be positive. Against all odds, and with the help of Orange Schools, Shamable has not only survived, but excelled. She has worked at McDonald’s for a year, using her paycheck to pay her own phone bill and manage other responsibilities. In a further demonstration of her maturity, she was able to plan out everything she needed for prom and created a budget that allowed her to go. On top of that, she runs track year-round, participates in poetry along with other school activities, creates beautiful art and still makes time to hang out with all of her friends. In true attest to her character, Shamable gratefully says, “I wouldn’t be who I am now; they [Beech Brook and Orange staff] helped me be a better, more positive person.”

The people around her saw Shamable’s unique and powerful strengths before she had even discovered them herself. Durkin describes Shamable as a caring person who is always willing to help out. Noticing this quality, Durkin got Shamable involved with Actively Caring for People (AC4P), a program started at Orange in response to the Virginia Tech tragedy that believes everyone can make the world a better and safer place through small, intentional acts of kindness. By participating in AC4P, Shamable has been able to exhibit her compassionate qualities. “I’m always the first to jump up and help people,” Shamable admits, so AC4P was a natural fit for her.

To further demonstrate how Shamable has a hard-to-come-by affinity for altruism, Durkin points out that the high school senior has led a kindergarten field trip to visit room 113’s pet bearded dragon for the past few years. She also voluntarily takes time out of her busy day to spend time with a few students with special needs. Whether they need help with an assignment or just need someone to talk to, Shamable is a face that these students know they can trust.

“When working with students with cognitive and physical disabilities, peer support is paramount in their progress and Shamable has volunteered her time to work with my students on many levels,” Carla Nazelli, Special Education Teacher at Orange, stated. “Shamable is a dependable and caring individual.” Shamable doesn’t even realize how special it is to have such a level of patience, sensitivity and kind-heartedness, but Durkin is quick to remind her that it is a true gift.

Her number one passion, however, is running. She started Track in middle school because her older sister had been a runner. It instantly became clear that she was a natural talent, but she also had the commitment to work hard. She broke the Orange Middle School record for the 400 and made it to the state competition her first year on the high school team. She excels in the 300 hurdles, 4×2 and 4×4 relays. Her talents must be obvious off the track as well as on because her coach, Mark Genovese, presented her with The Courage Award this year.

“I was very, very proud to coach her and I am extremely happy with her growth and performance,” Genovese stated. “She did a great job for our team this year and she’s a great kid!” She also ran her first long-distance run, the Fleet Feet 5K for Beech Brook, and finished 3rd in her age division. She has full confidence that she will come in first place next year now that she understands how to pace herself.

About to enter her senior year at Orange, Shamable says it will be the best year yet. Her story is a true testament to how the right guidance and simple support can help to build the positivity and hope it takes to face hardships and never-ending obstacles. After she graduates next spring, Shamable plans to attend summer boot camp in order to join the National Guard. Her lifelong aspirations are not set in stone, but she definitely wants to work with children, either as an elementary school teacher or a pediatric nurse.