May 7, 2024
Category: ChampsHome Feature

17th Annual Champs Celebration

An unforgettable event that celebrates and recognizes the time and effort of those who have aided our students in realizing their full potential.

On April 25th, we hosted our 17th annual Champs Celebration, which was a beautiful night filled with inspiration and gratitude. The Arcadia Ballroom at the Radisson Plaza Hotel was filled with over 300 guests joining to honor individuals and community partners who share in the CIS vision— an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise—by actively putting forth time, energy, talent, and resources to drive this vision to reality.

We were guided through the awards program by this year’s emcee, CIS Board Member Dr. Candy McCorkle. During the evening, we also welcomed presenters from Kalsec, Inc. (Sarah Rex, Vice President of Global Human Resources), Kalamazoo Public Schools (Dr. Darrin Slade, Superintendent), CIS of Kalamazoo (James Devers, Executive Director) and Kalamazoo Central High School (Clarise Anderson, 2024 graduate).

This year’s award recipients honored include:

SLD READ was honored with a Champ award that was presented by CIS Senior Director of Community Engagement and Student Investment, Artrella Cohn.

Celebrating their 50th anniversary, SLD Read has been serving West Michigan by strengthening community through literacy. For over 15 years, we have proudly partnered with SLD Read to bring resources directly to students through coordinated tutoring and intervention supports along with tapping into their specialized training for CIS volunteers.

CIS Site Coordinator, Lori Washburn at King-Westwood Elementary School says, “It has been a true pleasure to work with SLD Read tutors Claudia and Joan. They care for our students not only academically but also emotionally. They understand the feelings related to daily struggles in reading. The kindness, creativity, and consistency these amazing women provide creates a strong foundation for growth. One student who worked with SLD Read earlier this year has made remarkable progress and is now reading with the top group in her class. We are so blessed to work with SLD Read at King Westwood.”

SLD Read team and board members.

JAY YELTON III AND JAMES LIGGINS JR. were honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award and presented by CIS board member Dave Maurer.

Visionary, collaborative, passionate, and dedicated describe CIS volunteers Jay Yelton III and James Liggins Jr., particularly with their work establishing the CIS Career Prep Club. In its 3rd year of implementation, the Career Prep Club has been supporting students at Kalamazoo Central High School and Loy Norrix High School. The club is designed to connect students to a mentor who will serve as their “career guide” from their freshman to senior year in high school.

Regina, a Junior at Kalamazoo Central High School said, “Career Prep Club is a club that teaches me things that will help me in the future whether it is college, jobs, or my career.”

Because of the vision and creativity from Jay Yelton and James Liggins, more students have access to programming that prepares them for the future. Leading up to the Champs Celebration, a video was prepared and played for Jay and James during the presentation. You can see the video here.

James Liggins Jr., and Jay Yelton III

JEN DEWAELE was honored with the CIS of Kalamazoo Staff Recognition, which was presented by CIS Executive Director, James Devers.

For over 10 years, Jen DeWaele has supported Kalamazoo kids through her work as a site coordinator at Woodward School. Jen’s dedication to her work, advocacy and team collaboration all lead to the betterment of students and their families. Loved by CIS colleagues, Kalamazoo Public Schools staff, partners, families and students, Jen DeWaele is admired and by anyone who is privileged to work with her.

When we asked Jen DeWaele, “Why CIS?”, Jen told us, “We have always strived to grow meaningful relationships, that results in meaningful change for individuals, families, and schools.”

A video was made by a few of Jen’s friends to help celebrate her at this year’s event. You can see the video here.  

Jen DeWaele and James Devers (CIS of Kalamazoo Executive Director)

CHARLES PARKER was honored with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award presented by the President of the CIS of Kalamazoo Board, Linnaea Thomas.

A lifetime advocate and specialist in youth development programming, Mr. Parker has served the youth and their families in Kalamazoo for decades, with a specific interest in those residing on the Northside of Kalamazoo. As a community leader supporting youth programming, Charles Parker was the Program Director for the Greater Kalamazoo YMCA, founder of the Kalamazoo Black Achievers Program, founding member of the Northside Neighborhood Watch, and Achievement and Behavior Support Specialist for Kalamazoo Public Schools. In 2013, with the help of his family, Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E (Pursuing Leadership and Community Engagement) was founded. Through Charles Parker’s passion and servant’s heart, Kalamazoo’s youth have been given opportunities to learn, dream, and grow.

Artrella Cohn, CIS Senior Director of Community Engagement and Student Investment says, “What stands out about Charles Parker is his passion and desire to see stronger families as well as fully equipped and productive youth lining up with the action that he has taken over the years.”

We were honored to celebrate Charles Parker for changing the lives of countless youth for over 50 years.

If you are interested in seeing more photos from this year’s Champs Celebration, you can access them here.

Our Champs sponsors allow us to host this beautiful event. Their ongoing support has made our work and this celebration possible. Thank you to our 2024 Champs sponsors:

Our presenting sponsor, Kalsec Inc.

Senior sponsors: Abraxas Worldwide, Chase Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Landscape Forms, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Maestro, PNC Bank, and R.W. LaPine Inc.

Junior sponsors: Humphrey Products, Miller Davis Company, Miller Johnson, Western Michigan University’s College of Education and Human Development and The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and Zoetis.

Sophomore sponsors: Comerica Bank, CSM Group, FEMA Corporation, Greenleaf Trust, The Kalamazoo Promise, LKF Marketing, Mike and Sharon Seelye Family Foundation, Unifab Corporation, and Warner Norcross + Judd, LLP.

Freshman sponsors: Bronson Healthcare, Consumers Credit Union, Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Mercantile Bank, Radisson Plaza Hotel and Suites, Schupan, and Welsh & Associates.

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