Hi, I'm Shailene, a community organizer, activist, and advocate based in the Durham Region.
I'm a University of Toronto Alumni with an HBSc. in Molecular Biology, Immunology & Disease, Women & Gender Studies, and a TEFL instructor certified by the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE). I'm currently working towards my LL.B and LL.M at the University of London, UK and Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto.
I currently work as a legislative assistant at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and proudly serve as a Director and Coordinator for both the Canadian Black Students' Network and the Durham Black Students' Network.
My passion for anti-racism, anti-oppression, and political advocacy have allowed me to travel throughout Ontario and teach people of all ages and backgrounds how to find their voice, create a seat at the table, and widen the path for others along the way. I offer keynote addresses, spoken word poetry, interactive educational presentations, and youth mentorship. I also work as a natural hair educator bringing local businesses, youth, and families together to learn about their roots and how to care for them.
By sharing my story and experiences growing up as a Black woman in the Durham Region I hope to shed light on how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.
I believe empowering youth to use their voices to make positive change in our communities is key; one voice is all it takes, and it's never too early to start making a difference.
I also believe that mental health awareness and general well-being are crucial to supporting the next generation. I often share my own battles with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and suicide in the hopes that the signs, symptoms, and supports are normalized and more widely understood.
There's lots of work to do, so thank you for being a part of the movement!
"Aim to be the role model you could have used when you were younger."
"Durham Black Students' Network (DBSN) aims to connect Black/marginalized youth from the Durham region with resources within the community for personal and professional development through a variety of leadership opportunities.
We work to provide transferable life skills, experiences and strive to cultivate motivation which all work advance personal growth to promote future success."
Shailene’s extraordinary efforts have made a real difference to countless youth and community members. She previously attended the University of Toronto Scarborough for Molecular Biology, and worked with the Black Student's Associations to plan various events and initiatives. Shailene is a Director and coordinator for the Durham Black Students' Network not-for-profit organization that mentors multiple at-risk high school students across the Region. She is also the CEO of 'Naturally Crowned' which provides youth, families, and children in care with the knowledge and confidence to care for their natural hair.
Shailene organized Oshawa's Black Lives Matter Protest, Rally, and Memorial in 2020 and raised over $18,000 for local supports for Black youth. She then co-created the Durham Black Accountability Coalition and secured more than 15,000 signatures on a published petition, along with endorsements from elected officials at all levels of government.
In 2019 and 2021 Shailene successfully secured the nomination from the Oshawa NDP's federal riding association and ran as Oshawa's official candidate. She ran strong, community-centric campaigns and came second with more than 17,000 votes.
Shailene sat on the Durham Children's Aid Community Advisory Council to advocate for marginalized youth in care and their families. She was awarded the Lincoln M. Alexander provincial award and scholarship in 2015 for all of her efforts in promoting diversity, acceptance, and multiculturalism.
As a previous student at Maxwell Heights Secondary School in Oshawa, Shailene Panylo created an awareness project promoting the beauty of textured hair during Black History Month. Maxwell’s ROOTS (Rising Over Our Texture Stereotypes) poster project featured photos of more than 50 students with a variety of hair textures. Shailene’s project showcased students’ views about their hair and cultural roots, and helped promote respect for all cultures and ethnicities. She now annually sponsors two graduation awards in her name at Maxwell Heights Secondary School in Oshawa.
Shailene is an active member of the Rotary Club of Oshawa and the Caribbean Cultural Centre of Oshawa, and continues to mentor young community members. Shailene speaks to students across the province about the importance of their unique identities, intersections, and the power of one voice.