Fall Reception

2020 Fall Reception

On Thursday, October 29th, we held our annual event to honor our volunteers, learners, and partners. This virtual celebration featured some very special recognitions including:
Read on to learn more about these incredible individuals and their dedication to adult literacy. 

Volunteer service award

Jay Parsons

Jay Parsons has truly lived an international and literacy-centered life. He first taught English with International Voluntary Services, a predecessor to the Peace Corps when he was in Vietnam. 

He currently teaches Level 4 (advanced) classes in the KLC’s ESL of Southwest Michigan, for students in civics and citizenship, through our Virtual Learning Center.  

His academic achievements include a masters degree in International Studies and a Ph.D. in Geography, from the University of Hawaii. Grad studies took him to the Philippines and Ann Arbor.

It is an honor to recognize Jay for a lifetime of service in literacy and education, and for all he does with his learners. Read his full story here.  

June Miller Legacy award in literacy

Kim (Thinnes) Bell

Congratulations to Adult Education Leader Kim Bell for being named the winner of the June Miller Legacy Award in Literacy from the Kalamazoo Literacy Council. The award recognizes “an individual who has shown outstanding dedication to the cause of literacy and through those efforts, has made an indelible, positive impact on the lives of others.”
Bell has worked as the Kalamazoo Adult Education Leader for just over 19 years.  This position oversees ABE, HSE, IELCE, Distance Learning, LINKS Courses, Literacy, and HSE Testing at several locations.  Kim has served on numerous service groups and boards at a local, state, and association level.  Under Kim’s leadership, the KAE program has received 14 awards that include recognition for her administration, partnerships, staff, and program.  Kim has a MA in Education Leadership from Western Michigan University.  She has made it her lifetime goal to help individuals better their lives through academics and mentoring.  She is a very strong advocate for literacy and lifting people to their fullest potential. Kim has been a KLC advocate for many years, even having been a past board member.
“I am truly honored to be recognized by the Kalamazoo Literacy Council and its staff,” Bell said. “I will accept (the award) proudly, while knowing it takes a community of dedicated individuals equally worthy to make a positive difference in the lives of those that need the most support.”

It is indeed our honor to recognize Kim for a lifetime of service in literacy and education, and for being an unwavering advocate in support of adult literacy. 

literacy advocate of the year

Eduardo Osorio

Eduardo Osorio is a Venezuelan psychologist who received his masters as a Behavior Analyst in WMU. His professional interests have always been around developing processes and structures that allow organizations to learn and improve using the talents of their employees. He is currently working at Borgess as a Performance Improvement Coordinator. Eduardo has served as a volunteer tutor with the KLC since October 2016. That same year, he served on the Annual Campaign Cabinet before joining the Board of Directors. He served as President in 2018-2019 and chair of the Program Committee.
Throughout that time, Eduardo continued to faithfully serve as a tutor at Kalamazoo Adult Education and later at El Concilio. At both sites, he was the lead advocate for adult learners and the volunteers who served them. Under his leadership, the KLC and the volunteers at the El Concilio were recently honored with the Guerreros Award for “their leadership, volunteering, dedication, support, and commitment to the Latinx Community in Kalamazoo” for the evening ESL classes and tutoring. His service continued virtually once the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Eduardo has also lent his expertise in continuous improvement to help the KLC improve its programs and measure and monitor progress.
For his tireless commitment to adult learning and his dedication to the KLC mission, Eduardo is a deserving recipient of the 2020 Literacy Advocate of the Year Award.

Mard Little award for adult learner excellence

Lawonda White

Nominated by Taylor Sayers 
Congratulations to Lawonda White! She is our 2020 recipient of the Mard Little Award which recognizes a learner who has persisted through adverse circumstances in their literacy journey. Their significant educational and personal gains demonstrate strength and motivation and inspire others to keep striving for their goals. 
Lawonda says contacting the KLC was one of the hardest things she’s done, because she was so low on self confidence due to her reading and writing skills. When she started studying with us, she was working a deli job with dreams of one day attending post-secondary education and starting her own business. Today, Lawonda has her own catering business and works at the KVCC Culinary Lab.
Through our services and her own hard work, Lawonda has gone from self-conscious and nervous to a fearless leader and empowered advocate.  She is the perfect candidate for the Mard Little Award for Adult Learner Excellence because through any difficult situations, she has persevered for her and her children’s’ future and the person she knows she can be. Read her full story here.


Naomi Oshitani

Nominated by Jackie Denoyer

Naomi began attending in-person classes through our Community Literacy Center (CLC) at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, and once the pandemic hit, she continued her studies through our Virtual Learning Center. She is highly motivated and participates in as many weekly classes as possible. Outside of the traditional language classes, Naomi attended our Health Literacy Covid-19 series from March – May, the “Read and Seed” garden and nutrition-focused course in June, and is an active participant in the Fall Health Literacy class. Naomi is a bright student and a friendly person who says, “I really enjoy the time with my classmates and teachers; they are so kind!”. Read her full story here. 


Clarisse Kalusembiko

Nominated by Dori Ravotas

Clarisse Kalusembiko is a single mother with three children and without family or support system in the U.S. She works full-time at JBS Beef Plant. She first attended ESL classes in the Health Literacy summer program in 2019 and returned this year. However, she did not have a computer or internet access. Since receiving technology services through our Laptop Learning Program, Clarisse was a consistent attendee for the rest of the term.

Clarisse is working with her children on school work and is a great candidate for Parent Literacy programs. She has advanced her English fluency levels in reading and writing since studying with the Kalamazoo Literacy Council and we are very proud of her hard work.

Photo Gallery

Check out some fun photos of the Fall Reception from past years!