‘Pastor Shaq,’ the well-known minister, named Hamilton’s Citizen of Year

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Pastor Shaquila Mathews is the 2018 Hamilton Citizen of the Year.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A Hamilton minister known for her work mentoring youth and for an effort to stop youth gun violence was honored on Friday night as Hamilton’s Citizen of the Year.

The Rev. Shaquila Mathews, better known as “Pastor Shaq,” is a Hamilton High School Class of 1998 graduate who went to Indianapolis for 12 years, then returned to Hamilton in 2014.

“I was just shocked and surprised, and thankful, all at the same time,” Mathews said of the award. “Because you do what you do, not for the recognition, but when it comes, it’s very special.”

“To hear that kind of news was like, ‘Keep pushing, Shaq,’” she said. “It was very encouraging, very motivating, to hear that.”

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The Citizen of the Year recipient “is a member of the Hamilton community who has left a special mark on the city in 2018 and has done so in a way that transcends his or her everyday job,” according to the chamber.

The award was presented at the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting and dinner on Friday.

Mathews launched the Pastor Shaq Job/Mentoring Youth Program at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. The summer program engages youth in a variety of activities aimed at personal development.

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Notification of the award came at tough time, she said. “My week had been very challenging, so to get that news, it was much needed,” she said.

Pastor of the Truth & Life Community Church in Hamilton, she returned to the city because she felt, “It’s time to come back home, and work in our own community, and work in our own community, and make a difference.”

She founded HYPE, Hamilton Young People Empowered, a non-profit organization that helps young people through mentoring, after-school programming, open gyms and other things. She also has been working with a Cincinnati-based program called Street Rescue, which accepts “community guns” in exchange for gift certificates. Community guns are weapons that gangs or other groups hide for use as needed, so they don’t have to carry weapons around all the time.

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“I’m very thankful and appreciative to be able to serve the city of Hamilton, just being a hometown girl, and just being in such a class of extraordinary people that have already received the award,” Mathews, 38, said.

One benefit of the award is she will be able to tell others, “you can do it,” she said. “When you work hard, and being a service leader. People see you.”

She said she is thankful for her family, which makes sacrifices so she can do what she does, and also is thankful to parents of teens she mentors, “for allowing me to be a part of their kids’ lives.”

“It’s a blessing, truly a blessing,” she said. “Nothing short of amazing.”

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