True Star was founded in 2004 by DeAnna McLeary-Sherman and Na-Tae’ Thompson. Driven by their desire to improve the lives of Chicago youth, and fueled by the tremendous needs of young people living in underserved communities, McLeary-Sherman and Thompson developed a multi-media organization with youth at the helm. The primary goal of the first True Star program was to improve writing skills for young people, and it soon grew to encompass media arts and youth development. Since its formation in 2007, that initial program has transitioned from a newsletter to a magazine and now a digital media company that annually serves over 5,000 young people in under-resourced communities.

True Star has provided quality after school and summer on-the-job training to over 10,000 youth ages 14-24 living primarily in underserved communities on the south and west sides of Chicago. True Star currently provides approximately 250 jobs to Chicago youth per year. True Star instructors are media and business industry professionals who work closely with participating youth teaching in demand skills that are transferable to academics and the workplace. Ultimately, True Star provides young people from these underserved communities with a “Why” that excites, empowers, and employs them – ultimately changing the entire trajectory of their lives.


True Star empowers underserved youth to forge their own paths by providing jobs, training and real-world work experience that teaches them how to develop, create, and market digital content on platforms that celebrate their identity and perspective.


To inspire dreams so that youth can find their voice, discover their path, and prepare for life.


True Star provides Chicago youth a transformative work experience where they learn their voice matters and find the confidence to use it.


We are a media company and digital agency led by underrepresented youth. Our organization offers unique opportunities for youth to create and be the center of their own media. With this, they are put in leadership positions where their ideas are implemented, and they help to run the business, fostering an entrepreneurial mindset, feelings of hope and the promise of a rewarding career.


We help majority young underserved black creatives ages 14-24 who aspire to be leaders, have a voice, and make a difference in their communities.


DeAnna McLeary Sherman

DeAnna McLeary Sherman

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Under McLeary-Sherman’s leadership True Star launched a digital agency which provides its clients with unparalleled access to the culture creators and origins of new trends. This social enterprise helps youth gain job skills for the digital age.

Na-Tae' Thompson

Na-Tae' Thompson

Co-Founder & Executive Director

Na-Tae' utilizes her corporate knowledge, community organizing and natural ability to effectively create niche programming for True Star Foundation, ultimately assisting with the growth in youth served and programs offered.  

DeShaun Adams

DeShaun Adams

Promotions Manager & Digital Media Instructor

DeShaun has worked as a professional photographer since 2006. Adams has also been in promotion for over 10 years working for top brands like Pepsi Co., KBA Marketing, and Toyota.

Marti Parham

Marti Parham

Managing Editor and Content Manager/Program Liaison

In addition to writing for various publications, including the Chicago Tribune, Parham is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s magazine publishing program.

Hector “Hex” Danniel

Hector “Hex” Danniel

Digital Director

 Hex joined True Star in 2018 to spearhead the digital transformation of the organization. Hex has been instrumental in creating True Star’s digital footprint, new branding, and overall digital strategy and process for the organization.

Henry Collins

Henry Collins

Social Media & Brand Manager

Henry Collins is a True Star alumni, a digital creative and serial entrepreneur who enjoys implementing marketing strategies and learning new techniques in the ever so changing world of social media.

Sylus Green

Sylus Green

Video Production Team Lead

Sylus Green is a certified Adobe trainer and award-winning cinematographer who brings more than two decades of government training and film production expertise to True Star. His former clients include White House Communications, Disney, Columbia NY, Tufts University, the US Army, and the Social Security Administration. 

Eunice Shelley

Eunice Shelley

Filmmaking Team Lead

Eunice Smith-Shelley is a writer and producer responsible for the vision of Flip The Script Film Fellowship™ and The WordSmith Writer’s Lab™. She pivoted from a successful 20+ year career as a global Lean Six-Sigma Operations Manager and now focuses on helping young people develop skills that lead to career opportunities.

Shantel Sharmon Jarmon

Shantel Sharmon Jarmon

Prod. Manager & Podcast Instructor

Sharmon is a True Star alumni who is a multi-disciplinary artist and media curator from Chicago. Sharmon started her radio career as a student in True Star radio program and subsequently spent 10 years in radio broadcasting.


Chairman of the Board

LaTonya Wilkens

CEO, Change Coaches

Board Treasurer

Giuseppe Commodaro

VP Business Development


Steven Bayley

Brand Strategy

Jeanne Bright

Senior Digital Marketing Specialist


Thomas McLeary

CEO Endow Inc.

Jasmine Neveles

Strategic Marketing Executive

Bhavesh Shah

Director Data Analytics


Corey Richardson

VP Cultural Intelligence








Partner, EY


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2023-2024 True Star Media Sponsors/Partners