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Diversity Pioneer


Michigan Education Association (MEA)/NEA Lifetime member Cleorah J. Scruggs-DeBose has spent much of her life championing our diverse nation.

This spring, she was honored with the prestigious Community Service Award from the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Organization Inc. at the 52nd Annual Sojourner Truth Founder’s Day.

“Many have made America and our global world great,” Scruggs-DeBose says. “Let’s not hesitate to celebrate our unity.”

A 30-year classroom teacher, Scruggs-DeBose was recognized for decades of outstanding community service. As a teacher, Scruggs-DeBose’s original intention was to teach diversity to children through lessons designed to help them learn about American civil rights leaders. Scruggs-DeBose’s goal was to ensure that every Michigan school had a diversity program. Her idea was accepted by the MEA, but Scruggs-DeBose didn’t stop there. In 1993, she brought her idea to the NEA Representative Assembly where it was endorsed by thousands of delegates. National Multicultural Day was born.

“No man is an island, and I certainly could not have done all of this without the supportive help I’ve gotten throughout the years,” Scruggs-DeBose says.

Still an activist, Scruggs-DeBose is founder and
president of National
Multicultural Day Institute
(NMDI), which provides scholarships and donates supplies to needy students. This year’s Multicultural Day—held on the first Monday of October—marked two decades of the event’s national celebration.

“I never set out to get awards, but only to do my best to serve people especially our children, our greatest natural resources,” Scruggs-DeBose says. “So I dedicate these accolades to the hard working NMDI members, my family, MEA/NEA colleagues, and supporters.”

For more information about Multicultural Day, and local cultural events, visit:

—Edward Graham

Respect for ESPs


For more than two decades, Karen Mahurin—past President of NEA’s National Council for Education Support Professionals (ESP)—was a secretary in Alaska. Except for the principal, Mahurin was the school’s lone support staff member, and she says dexterity and a vibrant passion for her profession led her to advocate for her fellow ESPs.

Mahurin helped lead the charge that led to a formal change from Education Support Personnel to Education Support Professionals—a move that helped ESPs receive the respect they deserve for performing the critical jobs that make it possible for schools to function.

“The reason I became so involved was because I so believed in the work our folks do,” says Mahurin, who was recognized as ESP of the Year in 1997. “I knew the work I did and the people I worked with, and I know how important our folks are in schools.”

Today, Mahurin is still an activist. A 40-year resident of Alaska, she retired to Oregon, becoming active with the state’s Democratic Party. She was elected as the chair of the Tillamook County Democrats and volunteered many hours during the 2012 elections.

Mahurin enjoys walking the shore—only 10 minutes from her doorstep—with her dog. “Some days, as I’m walking to the beach,” she says, “I wonder how many people can really live their retirement dream. I feel so fortunate and blessed to have my dream come true.”

—Edward Graham

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