Making a Difference as a Whole0
The old saying goes that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the work that the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS) accomplish each year is living proof of this adage.
By aiding Kalamazoo’s youth in setting the foundation for their future, KPS employees demonstrate just how magical the fruits of collaboration can be. It is important to take the time to properly thank these people that play such a key role in our children’s lives and that is where the “You Make a Difference Awards” come in.
On Tuesday, June 11, at Western Michigan University’s Fetzer Center, 24 exceptional KPS staff members were recognized by The Kalamazoo Promise (The Promise) for their contributions to the lives of their students. Each award winner was nominated by colleagues from their respective schools.
"For this event, we want to recognize those truly extraordinary individuals who make our schools places where our children can learn to succeed and prepare to take advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise,” said Von Washington Jr., The Promise’s Executive Director of Community Relations. “The ‘You Make a Difference Award’ is about honoring those who demonstrate a high level of commitment and excellence to their students."
The criteria for these awards allow for all staff members contracted by KPS to be considered for nomination. Teachers, administrators, custodians, bus drivers, secretaries, food service workers, and counselors are all qualified for this honor.
This variety allows a diverse cross section of representatives the opportunity to receive acknowledgement for their creativity, innovation, and hard work.
Once the recipients had been recognized, Cyekeia Lee, The Promise’s Director of Community Collaboration and the event’s coordinator, read a quote by Michelle Obama that encapsulated what these staff members have meant to the students they serve.
“We should always have three friends in our lives,” Lee read. “One who walks ahead, who we look up to and follow; one who walks beside us, who is with us every step of our journey; and then, one who we reach back for and bring along after we've cleared the way.”
Through their own unique contributions, each one of the awardees has acted as all three of these friends for the KPS students. Lee recognized this parallel and closed out the night by expressing gratitude to the event’s guests of honor.
“I want to thank tonight’s nominees for giving children someone to look up to, for walking with them along their journey, and most importantly I want to thank you for clearing a pathway.”
2019 You Make A Difference Awardees
Arcadia Elementary School: Jennifer Wright
Edison Environmental Science Academy: Erika Zavasky
El Sol Elementary School: Israel Catarino
Greenwood Elementary School: Jami Skinner
Hillside Middle School: Matthew LaFeve
Kalamazoo Central High School: Rex Hafer
Kalamazoo Innovative Learning Program: Lisa Thomas
King Westwood Elementary School: Sandie Lundquist
Lincoln International Studies School: Courtney Horn
Linden Grove Middle School: John Buchanan
Loy Norrix High School: Jacqueline Hampton-Gardner
Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts: Thomas Unangst
Middle School Alternative Learning Program: Francie Mills
Milwood Elementary School: Mary Spiewak
Milwood Magnet School: Tanya Parker
Northeastern Elementary School: Victor Rumph
Northglade Montessori Magnet School: Donna Partin
Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School: Jennifer Boyer
Phoenix High School: Scott Hunsinger
Spring Valley Center for Exploration: Sherrie Gamble
Washington Writers' Academy: Aaron Mason
Winchell Elementary School: Mandy Clearwaters
Woods Lake Elementary School: Dawn Hosler
Woodward School for Technology and Research: Dana Calloway