Born in Detroit, Michigan, to a heroin-addicted mother and an unknown father, Tinesha Cherry grew up fighting. She fought to escape mental, emotional and physical abuse in the foster and adoption systems. “I remember asking my social worker if I could live with her,” she recalls. “When I was 8 years old, my aunt tried to adopt me, but she was only 18 years old and had no assistance. She promised to come back for me, and finally adopted me when I was 12.”
Tinesha documents her journey through poetry with clever messages such as, “Not everyone will be eager to support you, but you must never doubt who you are or what you can do.” They’re not merely words; her strength is undeniable. She’s currently a federal law enforcement officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and proudly states, “I had never even held a gun before becoming a law enforcement officer, but I quickly earned my sharp shooters pin early in my career due to my natural ability to shoot.” And, she is the highest-ranking African American within her agency in the state of Michigan.
But don’t let the sharp edge fool you. She’s also a wife, mother and volunteer. Tinesha’s desire to assist and protect also inspired her to jumpstart She Strong Inc., a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to promote growth, prosperity and greatness in adolescent girls and women everywhere, regardless of age, race, social standing or economic status. She Strong’s offerings include an annual education scholarship, in addition to D.R.E.A.M. GIRLS and She Travel programs. D.R.E.A.M. GIRLS stands for Delivering Results Effectively to Advance Myself. It aims to break the cycle of poverty by providing strategies and resources to help young women attain life goals. She Travel enables girls to become global citizens by providing travel opportunities where they immerse themselves in foreign cultures.
“I started She Strong because I know I needed something like this when I was young,” Tinesha shares. “I want to do that for someone else—to take an interest in their development, growth and prosperity.”
Tinesha is inspired by the organization’s successes that represent all walks of life, from teens avoiding pregnancy and staying out of trouble, to a young girl who escaped bullying through Tinesha’s words of encouragement. “When I speak to young women, I underscore the message to fight by distributing key chains shaped like boxing gloves—a reminder of strength,” she says.
She also draws upon her poetry to deliver power-punching messages at elementary, middle and high school graduations where she often distributes free copies of her book, I Was Born to Lose, But I Chose to Win. It details how to tap into the power of hope to “turn yesterday’s disappointments into tomorrow’s success.”
“I want everyone to know that where you come from does not dictate where you’re going,” says Tinesha. “You are the author of your own story and you get to write it every day.”
She’s living proof in motion. She recently met Michelle Obama at a speaking engagement, and served as moderator for keynote speaker and Girlboss Founder Sophia Amoruso at NAWBO’s National Women’s Business Conference. Tinesha’s efforts to engage, educate and empower girls and women has been documented, and soon she’ll be highlighted in a feature presentation for her role as a senior level officer and how she’s impacting the world.
Still, Tinesha takes it all in stride. “This is not a mistake,” she says. “I have this responsibility to use my story to help others and encourage them to fight for themselves and for what matters to them.”
NAWBO Congratulates Tinesha Cherry on Her 2019 Dr. Tererai Trent Award Honor!
The Dr. Tererai Trent Award recognizes a woman who encompasses these characteristics displayed and practiced by Dr. Trent:
- A desire and focus to accomplish a task that serves others
- A voice toward equality and empowerment for women and girls
- Motivates others to step up, dream and take action
- A woman who uses their power and influence for good and always has a “give-back attitude” and a servant focus