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Virtual presentation & moderated Q&A
Social Justice Advocacy - Moving from Words to Results
Thursday, February 25, 2021, 7 pm
Talking about change is good. Taking the steps to turn those words into meaningful action is what transforms lives and communities. The next Speaker Series virtual event will take a local look at individuals and organizations doing the challenging work of driving individual, institutional, and cultural change in southwest Michigan.
Three local leaders will discuss their own proven methods for achieving results and share stories of success and lessons along the way. Scheduled panelists are:
Danny Jennings, who was born and raised in Benton Harbor, has kept his talents close to home by serving his community as Teacher and Coach at Benton Harbor High School. Influenced by his grandfather Sylvester and his uncle Rod who were huge sports fans, Danny’s love of sports became the catalyst for his passion for education, helping others, and social justice and diversity. Having played baseball at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and LeMoyne-Owen College, his desire to be an athlete inspired his will to attend college. Danny went on to earn his Bachelor of Science in Physical Education and Masters of Arts in Education Leadership degrees from Western Michigan University. He has spent the past two decades as a youth development professional and owns NOYA Inspired LLC, providing motivational speaking and life coaching. He serves as the Executive Director of NeighborHOOD Community Connections (with H.O.O.D. serving as an acronym for “Helping Our Own Develop). Danny is in his fourth year as the Black History Committee Chairperson at Benton Harbor High School. His goal is to continue being a servant for the underserved and being a pillar of influence that contributes to their potential and opportunities being maximized so that their futures are of high quality.
Charmae Sanders is the Director of the Start to Finish Program at Lake Michigan College, which is an academic support program that serves students from the Benton Harbor Promise Zone and students who spent time in foster care. Previously, Charmae spent 15 years working for the State of Michigan Department of Human Services foster care system. Charmae served as the community co-chair for ALPACT (Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust) from 2018-2020. She is on the board of the Race Relations Council and the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties. Charmae is the current president of the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Charmae holds a BS in Family Community Services from Michigan State University and an MA in Family Studies from Spring Arbor University.
As executive director of the OutCenter in Benton Harbor, MaryJo Schnell leverages 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, primarily in Chicago organizations. She is a devotee to the health of this sector and advocates for preserving the public’s trust in the sector and its ability to create positive change in society. She prizes diversity, equity, and a commitment to high ethical standards, and understands and appreciates the need for a plurality of organizational cultures. Since 2012, she has helped grow and diversify the OutCenter’s revenue by 41% (pre-COVID-19), and relaunched initiatives with a focus on systemic change in the area’s mostly rural area. The LGBTQ+ Safe Schools Collaborative, funded in 2017, in part, by the United Way of Southwest Michigan, and the Big Idea grant within the Frederick S. Upton Foundation, has already resulted in more than 300 policy recommendations and/or enactments in 18 Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren schools, has helped to save lives and family relationships, and reached over 11,000 students.
Posted January 28, 2021