Repairing the World

Former Parkland student activist Casey Sherman turned tragedy into triumph, remaining committed to repairing the world through faith and determination

By Eric Edelman

Even in her youth, Casey Sherman always understood the value of politics, particularly the theory behind it. The now-student of Duke University learned quickly that, when it comes to political activism and involvement, for her, it started with early exposure to political science and public policy. “At least as of right now, of course, nothing has changed,” she says of her future professional aspirations. “I would like to be involved with corporate social responsibility. Corporations and big businesses have a responsibility to use what they’ve built, to leave a positive impact on society.” 

Growing up in the picturesque suburban enclave of Parkland, Florida, the half-Jewish, half-Cuban daughter of two medical professionals gave Sherman a uniquely privileged perspective on life. But despite her good fortune and upbringing, Sherman wanted to take her opportunities to do more and enhance the lives of those who were not as fortunate. She felt compelled to use what good fortune she received and help others. She notes a flashpoint of this realization occurring while participating in a volunteer program for Jewish teens in high school. This program’s purpose afforded students like Sherman the chance to get a hands-on opportunity to engage in social justice work within under-privileged communities, an experience that gave her a new outlook on life. “I spent four weeks based in Rutgers. Every single day during the week, I got up and went to volunteer at a soup kitchen called Elijah’s Promise, as well as a camp for underprivileged kids called Safe Space,” she recollects. “It was the first time I stepped out of the Parkland bubble.” 

The experience not only left her wanting to do more, but it left her wanting to engage at a greater level with making the world a better place than she found it, much aligned with her Jewish faith and the Jewish philosophy of tikkun olam, which translates to “repair the world” in English. But her trajectory shifted when, one day, on a fateful Wednesday afternoon, a shooter, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The shooter killed 17 of her classmates, leaving countless more forever scarred—some physically, many mentally—by the tragic carnage. Sherman, along with many of her classmates, sought to turn the tragedy into an opportunity, an opportunity to repair the world. Sherman founded a non-profit organization called Empower the People, an entirely student-led project to increase youth awareness and engagement in the government, as well as governmental policies. Sherman, through Empower the People, has engaged with hundreds of students across the country in Get Out the Vote presentations and even led a session at the Arthur W. Page Society Annual Conference in Washington D.C.  For her civic engagement and work, Sherman won the prestigious 2019 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, an honor given to teens that show superior commitment and dedication to social good and volunteer service on behalf of the Helen Diller Family Foundation. Sherman was awarded $36,000 to support her social justice work and education, an education she is quick to concede is a balancing act. “When I’m not in class or doing my homework, I’m working on Empower the People,” Sherman says, with a slightly humorous tone to her voice. With sights set on one day being involved with corporate social responsibility, Sherman still remains ever-motivated and inspired to repair the world, one step at a time. 

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