‘Queen’ inspires change

Scholarship honors beloved professor Dr. Intisar Shareef


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Barbara Grillo (left) and Richmond resident Wendy Mouton (right) talk about Intisar Shareef after her memorial service at the Knox Center.

By Denis Perez, Editor-In-Chief

“Love.” Just the single word “love” is the way Tennikqua Nepher describes her late mother Dr. Intisar Shareef, who worked at Contra Costa College’s Early Learning Center (ELC) for over 30 years, most recently serving as chairperson of the department.

Dr. Shareef adopted Nepher as a young adult.

Nepher said Shareef cared for her in the same loving way that she cared for her community — she made them part of her family.

Shareef died on Nov. 4, 2017 after battling cancer. She was 71.

Nepher spoke to a festive, but teary-eyed, crowd at Shareef ’s memorial service, held Friday in the Knox Center.

“We are gathered to celebrate her (Shareef’s) life and her legacy because through her influence on students, friends and family she will live on.”

During the service, former Library, Allied Health, Vocational Education and Athletics Division (LAVA) dean Susan Lee announced the Intisar Shareef Scholarship Fund, in honor of Shareef’s deep commitment and far reaching work at the ELC.

Early childhood education department Chairperson Sandra Moore said the scholarship has already raised $2,300 from donations collected at the memorial service.

The scholarship will ease tuition costs and serve as support for ECE students who need help with childcare or income.

Moore said she has already set up the preliminary requirements with the CCC Foundation and the scholarships could be given out as soon as this fall.

“Shareef believed in her students,” Moore said. “She wanted them to have opportunities to succeed in higher education. This scholarship honors Shareef in that same way.

Former Contra Costa College student Georgina Bronx, 64, said Shareef’s life was filled with purpose — education, community, family and God.

“When I would see her come, I would say to myself, ‘Here comes the queen.’”

Shareef was always uniquely dressed in an Afrocentric look, walked with grace and always grabbed the attention of whoever she spoke to.

Even if it was a room full of people and her appearance was only the beginning, Bronx said.

“When you talked with her she listened to you and then when she responded you could tell that she was really feeling what you were saying,” she said.

Denis Perez / The Advocate
Filmmaker Shakti Butler showed a slideshow of former early childhood education chairperson Intisar Shareef’s life during a memorial service for her in the Knox Center at Contra Costa College on Friday.

It was Shareef’s eclectic personality that gave her such a “world view perspective.”

Former student Glenda Roberts said the way Shareef thought was different than most people.

“(Shareef) would nurture you by challenging you in order to spark growth,” she said.

“Shareef was vicious with essay paper feedback. She marked the paper up and down with a red pen. You could tell she wanted you to get it.”

Roberts said Shareef’s style of nurturing students by challenging them extended outside of the classroom. Once, Shareef invited Roberts to run a marathon in Hawaii.

“It was Hawaii so I said yes.” Shareef and Roberts ran the marathon together in Hawaii and finished it in eight hours. The next year Shareef wanted to do it again and said that this time they were going to finish sooner.

Roberts thought she was crazy, but the two finished the second marathon in only seven hours. Shareef always wanted to learn and grow.

One of Shareef’s most recent projects was bringing Anji Play to the Early Learning Center. Shareef had read about the outdoor play learning method that Chinese preschools were using and felt that the Early Learning Center students would benefit from it.

One year later she was in China touring Anji Play’s birthplace and finding out how to bring it back to CCC.

Now, thanks to efforts from Shareef and others, the college is the fourth early childhood education program in the nation to pilot the Chinese early learning curriculum.

Bronx gives credit to Shareef’s compassionate and understanding mentality that allowed her to do so much in her life.

Shareef stayed centered and kept a calm mind through her spirituality.

Bronx said Shareef knew that you pray until the spirit comes loose and then you go and focus on the task and you will be victorious.

“Shareef knew what she wanted, envisioned the outcome and worked for it,” Bronx said.

The service on Friday united many of Shareef’s friends and family with stories, memories and laughs.

A picture of Shareef during a photo shoot with artist Shakti Butler hung on the east wall of the Knox Center’s lobby.

On the table below the picture sat small manila envelopes for donors to fill to raise money for the scholarship fund and keep Shareef’s legacy alive.