Over the past 16 years, Shanell has served thousands of San Franciscans as an informed, passionate and dedicated public advocate, nonprofit leader and community organizer. From mentoring youth trapped in cycles of incarceration—to saving city college from a near loss of accreditation and closure for the past four years— Shanell has worked tirelessly to improve all San Franciscan’s quality of life. Shanell is currently working to reduce birth outcome disparities in communities of color through her work as a Community Engagement Specialist for the Preterm Birth Initiative at UCSF.
Shanell was raised in a working-class family in the Fillmore District of San Francisco; her father was a construction laborer, and her mother was a nursing assistant. She is the first person in her immediate family to pursue university. At 15 years old, Shanell became a ward of the court and completed high school with honors through Walden Academy continuation school. After graduating and transitioning out of the foster care system, Shanell briefly attended City College but left to pursue a full-time job, as she experienced the challenges of living in the city as a working student. She spent eight years working and organizing for numerous nonprofit agencies and labor organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life of marginalized, low-income communities such as: the Center for Young Women’s Development, Youth Leadership Institute, UNITE HERE Local 2, Jobs with Justice, and Urban Services YMCA to name a few.
In 2012, Shanell had the opportunity to re-enroll at City College. While there, Shanell became active in the politics of City College and served as Vice President of Communications for Ocean Campus before going on to become Ocean Campus’ Associated Students President. It was during this time the College’s accreditation became threatened, and as Associated Students President, Shanell became active in the effort to Save City College. Having come to City College with years of experience as an advocate and community organizer, Shanell became a natural leader in the Save City College Coalition. After serving as President, Shanell pursued Student Trustee with overwhelming support from students, faculty, staff the San Francisco community and won. She served two terms as Student Trustee at a time when the Board was under State control. Shanell also served on the Student Senate for California Community Colleges as Communications Officers and External Affairs Officer for Region 3– the Bay Area region.
Alongside the college’s students, faculty and classified staff, Shanell has traveled locally, statewide, and nationally, educating and engaging student leaders, labor leaders, the community, and elected officials to take action to save City College. She’s testified before local boards, State senate and Assembly committees and national accreditation boards. She supported the city attorney with filing injunction against ACCJC, has organized rallies and demonstrations, spoken on panels, sat on numerous accreditation work groups at the college, and has even been a media spokesperson on behalf of the fight to Save City College.
Shanell is a 2005 Jefferson Award recipient and was honored for her work in co-founding Youth Treatment and Education Court Leadership Fellows, as she helped develop a curriculum to train court administrators, judges, probation officers and thousands of service providers nationwide in culturally competent drug treatment for youth. She also received the 2013 San Francisco Bay Guardian Local Hero Award for her CCSF advocacy, as well as the Harvey Milk Democratic Club’s “City College Champion” Award in 2014.
Shanell is a graduate of Women’s Policy Institute, the Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment, the School for Organizing, Unity and Liberation (SOUL), and has served on the San Francisco Youth Commission Board, the Juvenile Justice Commission Board and other community boards. Shanell is an Emerge California alumna, class of 2016.