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Linda Mah
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Hillside Middle Honors Former Principal

Dorothy Young worked for KPS for 37 Years

Believe. Achieve. Succeed.

That was the theme of Dorothy Young’s tenure as principal at Hillside Middle School, and it was the theme of the celebration remembering her career with Kalamazoo Public Schools and the renaming of the school cafeteria and the road behind the school in her honor on Dec. 16.

Karika Parker, a former student and a minister who helped organize the event along with Young’s daughter, LaWanda Conger, praised Young for creating a loving, supportive environment for students.

“She showed us love,” Parker said. “Love is not what we say with words, it’s what we do. She hired and chose classroom teachers that did that. She surrounded us with excellent educators. On her watch we were safe. We were cared for. We were loved. She modeled a standard.”

Young worked for KPS for 37 years, which included 17 years as principal at Hillside, before retiring in 2003. The celebration brought together her former students and staff members, as well as community members.

Among Young’s former students was KPS Board of Education Trustee TiAnna Harrison, who said she took the city bus to Hillside every morning after her family moved out of the school’s boundaries, which meant she sometimes arrived before the start of the school day, but Young was always there and would let her in the building.

“I was determined to rise but afraid to soar,” Harrison said. “Mrs. Young saw in me not only what I was at the time but what was to come. She had the ability to do this not only for me but for every student.”

She had the ability to do that for parents too, to expect a person to “be the best version of yourself,” said Kalamazoo City Commissioner David Anderson, who delivered a city proclamation declaring it “Believe, Achieve, Succeed Day” at Hillside.

He was a quiet parent who drove a junky pick-up truck, when Young told him, “I think you could be on the PTSO, and I think you could be president of the PTSO.”

“And it was not really an ask, but what she saw in me,” he said. “As a consequence, that was the beginning of my entire life in politics. It changed the course of my life. Without her complete confidence in me, I don’t think I could have done it … even though that was the easiest election I ever had. That set me on path of believing in myself that I could participate in my community.”

KPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice recognized Young for influencing the lives of thousands of students over half a century of service to the education community.

“We continue to be fortunate she helps make the point to this day that children can be more than they are at any given point in their lives, that we are all works in progress, that we believe without exception in the capability of every single one of our young people. No exception,” Rice said. “For her leadership, for her role modeling, for her inspiration, we thank her today.”

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