Thursday, January 15, 2015

Putting the focus on Kalamazoo volunteers

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
January 15, 2015

Tinashe Chaponda (Photo by Susan Andress)

Helping others should be fun, says Tinashe Chaponda. He started FOCUS Kalamazoo to prove it could be done. 

Tinashe Chaponda was just a boy when his family moved to the United States from Zimbabwe in 2000. He’s 21 now, a sophomore majoring in human resources and minoring in marketing at Western Michigan University, and he has big plans and big dreams. One dream is already been realized, and Chaponda is carefully giving it shape. It’s called FOCUS Kalamazoo.

When Chaponda’s family came to the United States, they lived in Chicago, but then moved to Battle Creek, and then--Kalamazoo. His mother enrolled in Kalamazoo Valley Community College while his father worked. Chaponda and his brother attended Kalamazoo Public Schools. When his mother died unexpectedly he was in 8th grade.

The world split wide open, but Chaponda wasn’t ready to face it. It wasn’t his way. It wasn’t the way of the culture in which his family was rooted. His eyes dry, he kept that part of his broken heart closed even while he opened the other part. 

“I got involved with the Derek Jeter group, Jeter’s Leaders,” Chaponda says. “Being a part of Jeter’s Leaders kept me from straying from my ideals during high school. Jeter's Leaders is a youth leadership, social change program named by the captain of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter. The program is designed to promote healthy lifestyles, academic achievement, and social change activism among high school students. Reflecting on the Jeter’s Leaders program, I’ve realized how much it has changed me.”

Two events in the group made a lasting impression on Chaponda. Along with the group, he traveled to New Orleans, where he saw the suffering of the people there and the destruction of property after Hurricane Katrina. He was moved to reach out and help others when he returned his own community. 

The other event that was transformative for Chaponda was ...


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