January 21, 2013
BENTON TOWNSHIP, MI – During Lake Michigan College’s 18th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at the Mendel Center for Arts and Technology, the College presented its 12th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Diversity Award to the Readiness Center and Sister Paulita Walters, executive director of the Readiness Center in Benton Harbor.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Diversity Award is presented annually by the LMC president and Board of Trustees to an individual(s) or organization (s) that embraces and values the diversity of the greater community and promotes connections across differences. Criteria include a demonstrated commitment to enhancing inclusion through community service and professional endeavors; contributions to the progress of humanity, diversity, and the valuing of differences; and leadership in providing increased understanding and respect for diversity.
“The work that the Readiness Center and Sister Paulita Walters has done over the past three decades has prepared countless numbers of children start their education ready to learn. Her work has helped strengthen the community and set children on the path to success.” stated Dr. David Maysick, chair of the Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees.
Sister Paulita Walters holds a master’s degree in early childhood education from Boston College. She taught for 13 years in grades K-4 before coming to Benton Harbor in 1980 to create and run the Readiness Center. She has served on many community, educational, and church boards, and has been a speaker for local, state, and national groups. Sister Paulita has been the recipient of many awards including the Children’s Trust Fund Shawn Moore Memorial Award, and the Berrien County Council of Children’s Service Award.
For over 30 years the Readiness Center has prepared numerous children for their entry into kindergarten. Providing children with the curiosity, confidence, and tools necessary to succeed in school, the Readiness Center has become a model for early childhood development. Encouraging parental interaction and involvement, as well as personal development for the parents of students has always been a central part of the Readiness Center. By providing a safe and nurturing environment for children and their parents, the Readiness Center offers families a chance to learn the tool necessary to break the cycle of poverty. The Center also provides afterschool care including tutoring assistance and has added a teen work/volunteer program that helps teach the value of volunteering and work to students who have outgrown the afterschool program.
Past recipients of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Diversity Award are:
- 2012 - Water Street Glassworks and Frederick S. Upton Foundation
- 2011 - Doug Schaffer, formerly of the Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor
- 2010 - Michigan Works! Berrien-Cass-Van Buren
- 2009 - Marc Peremans and Wendy Ortiz from the Whirlpool Hispanic Network; Martha Cerda and Pedro Ledesma of Enterar Magazine; Van Buren Intermediate School District Administrator Pedro Martinez;
- 2008 - All God’s Children Community Choir founders Larry and Sandy Feldman
- 2007 - Reverend James E. Atterberry, Sr.
- 2006 - Former Benton Harbor City Manager Dwight “Pete” Mitchell
- 2005 - Former Benton Harbor Police Chief Samuel Harris
- 2004 - Berrien County Judge Mabel Johnson-Mayfield
- 2003 - Retired Atlantic Automotive Components president Pete Whitehead
- 2002 - Retired Whirlpool Corporation chairman and CEO David Whitwam