The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

The online student news site of Redondo Union High School

High Tide

It’s About the Story

Entrepreneur Tonya McKenzie talked to students in the Black Student Union about the importance of finding purpose.

Entrepreneur Tonya McKenzie was invited to a Black Student Union (BSU) meeting during lunch Nov. 9 to speak to members about finding importance and purpose in life. 


“Entrepreneurship is hard but you have to dedicate yourself to your craft. You have to keep learning and keep getting better. You have to keep up with technology while you’re trying to grow your business and bring in customers. At the end of the day, it’s your legacy and you have to be willing to work for it,” McKenzie said.


One of McKenzie’s first jobs was serving public relations (PR) for an anonymous HIV testing program, when she had no previous medical or PR experience. She later transitioned to working as the supervisor of a new YMCA athletic center to help raise over one million dollars to start, then moved on to designing the food labels. Now, as the founder of her own company, Sand & Shores, McKenzie has over 20 years of experience in media relations, marketing and client relations. According to her website, the purpose of McKenzie’s company, Sand & Shores, is to help increase the brand awareness of products and services. All her roles have helped her grow in working with customers to find out ultimately, the effect that PR has.


“My big moment was when I realized if you learn how to have conversations with people, you learn how to not be afraid of people that might not look like you or have the same background as you and [then] you’re really open to having deeper conversations. You can learn what people really want, what engages them and what gets them excited,” McKenzie said.


BSU Club President, senior Sidney Cherry wants the club to be a safe haven for anyone, especially Black students to learn and talk more about their experiences. Listening to the speech, Cherry felt McKenzie was an “inspirational” speaker which she feels “students could benefit from listening to.”


“Students [should] have representation for career options on campus. Inspiration from a successful Black woman who is involved in our community might help spark students’ ideas of what they want to do and what they are capable of in their future careers,” Cherry said. “[McKenzie’s] approach to marketing and to life is very inspiring. She’s definitely a go-getter [and] also does what aligns with her and what makes her happy. I’m definitely [going to implement what she said] and what resonates with me in my life as well.” 


After working in PR for several years, McKenzie realized that PR goes beyond just entertainment.


“What I learned is that public relations is really what the public sees. It is a third party endorsement. It’s really what people think, how people feel about you, how they transition that information to other people, how the people help to grow your reputation, public relations and how they respond to you,” McKenzie said. 


After witnessing gun violence in her youth, McKenzie decided to take initiative in her life, not letting her past events hinder her success.


“You can pave your path to whatever you want. Yes, you have to decide, but it’s not just about [having] a job. Remember, it’s the impact you want to leave on this world. That is important – how you tell your story is public relations,” McKenzie said. “Figure out what it is about those stories that you’re watching that attracts you. Be very conscientious about the information that you are bringing in on a regular basis.”


Senior and club Social Media Manager Sienna Lewis was inspired by McKenzie’s push to pursue her own personal story and purpose. According to Lewis, her goal is to use film as a platform to combat negative stereotypes about different communities that circulate across film and media and shed light on Black communities.


“I’ve been pretty confident about majoring in film in the future. I’ve had that idea in my head for a while. For me, to be able to tell my own story through whatever I do is very unique, especially since I want to put my perspective and my past into whatever films or whatever side of film I get into,” Lewis said.


Having already discovered her purpose in PR and helping clients monetize their stories to the public, McKenzie relayed advice to members about kick starting their own story and crafting their own legacy.


“I really want [everyone] to start working on figuring out ‘What is your story and what legacy do you want to leave?’ Because when you decide what legacy you want to [have], it’s not about what job you want,” McKenzie said. “It’s what legacy you want to leave and how you want to impact the world. Then you can start really paving your path. Remember your story is important because at the end of the day, that’s how people remember you.”

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About the Contributor
Kayli Mai
Kayli Mai, Staff Writer
Hii!! I’m a first year staff member. Things I love are music, tv shows, kimchi, and reading!! Some of my fav quotes are, “My soldiers rage", “If I cannot be better than them", "I will become so much worse,” and “Ellie, Williams, König and Nanami.”

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