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GRPS Superintendent wins top prize at Giants Awards

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Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal was crowned the Giant Among Giants and three students were awarded $1,000 Milo M. Brown scholarships toward their education at Grand Rapids Community College Saturday night at the 34th annual Giants Awards.

“This is actually the first scholarship I’ve ever received, so it’s a real honor,” said GRCC student Micah Rupert. “I’m just happy to be receiving an award tonight.”

Shawn Cummings and David Msema also received scholarships at the annual event that recognizes local community leaders.

In addition to the student honorees, there were 13 individual award winners honored for the contributions they made to the community.

The award winners include:

The Floyd Skinner Justice Award was presented to Kimberly A. Coleman. Coleman is the executive director of the Grand Rapids Bar Association and was presented the award for her influence and visibility that extends nationwide to young women of color, statewide to those involved in child care and locally to organizations that assist people with disabilities.

The Walter Coe Public Award was presented to Senita R. Lenear. Lenear, the Third Ward City Commissioner for Grand Rapids. Lenear’s nomination recognized her for  her community involvement and commitment to public service.

The Eugene Browning Medical Service Award was given to Herman C. Sullivan, M.D. Currently, Sullivan serves as the medical director of the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Sullivan received the award for his dedication to understanding neurological diseases, with an emphasis on the African-American population.

The W.W. Plummer Humanitarian Award was received by the family of Roy Ford. Ford retired from Consumers Energy before passing away at the age of 86. He was described as a man who understood the importance of support through family, that family did not just mean biological.

The Ethel Coe Humanities Award was presented to Clarice Smith Drew. Drew is the president of Image Counts. She was described as women who wears many hats and wears them all well. Her nominator included that she understands the creative possibilities of culture and art and health of any community.

The Milo Brown Business Award was given to Skot Welch. Welch is the founder and managing partner of Global Bridge Builders. His nominator described him as having a passion for developing community spaces where diverse people can come together and share honest dialogue.

The Phyllis Scott Activist Award was presented to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated Theta Chi Omega Chapter’s Ivylette/Rosette Program. This program works to support young women in the Grand Rapids community through quality programming in academics, self-development, and community involvement and service.

The William Glenn Trailblazer Award was received by Francine B. Gaston. Gaston serves as the Vice president and community development relationship manager of Fifth Third Bank in Western Michigan. Gaston was described as someone who makes things happen and has a way to bring people together.

The Raymond Tardy Community Service Award was received by Wayman Britt. Britt is the Assistant county administrator for Kent County. In this role, Britt has lead the establishment of the Kent School Services Network, aligning various community services to support students in 31 schools and eight school districts.

The H.C. Toliver Religious Life Award was presented to Carolyn Allen. Allen is an evangelist, the Messiah Baptist Church assistant minister for music, a gospel music teacher and a featured music soloist. She was described at the event as the embodiment of the value of music in lives of one another.

The Hattie Beverly Education Award was given to Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh. Ezeh received the award on behalf of her efforts to open 14 preschool classrooms, allowing for 336 children, who did not have previous access to school, to be able to participate in and benefit from early learning experiences.

Martha Reynolds Labor Award was presented to RiChard Jackson. Jackson works as the President and business agent of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 836. Jackson’s activism extends beyond protecting and supporting the needs of workers and reaches into the community as well. He’s relentlessly pursued economic justice, while maintaining a high level of passion and professionalism.

“My hope is that people are inspired tonight listening about all the great work that’s happening,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “(I hope) that they are inspired to be a part of the change.”

Some organizers hoped the ceremony would inspire young people, while restoring the energy to the rest of the crowd to go out and make a difference in the Grand Rapids area.

“I think it (Giants Awards) renews energy in people,” said Director of GRCC Diversity Learning Center Chris Arnold. “For those young people that are here, I think it inspires them as they see role models to look up to.”

The Giants Awards serves as a way for members of the Grand Rapids community to be recognized for their hard work and notable contributions.

“It has been a long time that we’ve been involved with (the Giants Awards),” said GRCC President Steven Ender. “It really does recognize African-Americans in our city that stand out in the community, so it’s an honor for (GRCC) to be able to put this on.”

GRCC supports this event by providing funds and helping to obtain sponsors.

“I think it gives us a moment in time to take a step back and reflect on the leadership of Grand Rapids,” Ender said. “And more communities should do that.”