African Americans from the Holland area will speak on the challenges and successes they experienced in their school and work experiences on Thursday, April 13, from 4:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Harbor Lights Middle School library as part of the series "Becoming A Culturally-Responsive Educational Community."

The series is sponsored by Hope College's CrossRoads Project, the college's urban education program, West Ottawa Schools, and the National Educational Diversity Program of the Japanese American National Museum, which is funded by Toyota. Harbor Lights is located at 1024 N. 136th Ave.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Panelists Ruth Coleman, Kathryn Curry, Dr. Fred L. Johnson III and Julia Maxwell will share their experiences and ideas on how educational communities can become more culturally responsive, especially to the diverse African American communities in the area.

Coleman graduated from Daniels Beauty Academy, East Bay Nursing Program and Davenport Business College, and is currently attending the Master of Social Work program at Grand Valley State University. She was recently featured in "I" magazine as one of West Michigan's 50 most influential women and nominated for a Phi Alpha Award. Coleman started a beauty supply business, which was successful for five years, but she left the business to start L.E.A.P., a learning enhancement achievement program for middle school youth who are struggling with failing grades in subjects such as math, English, science and history. The program has been in operation for seven years. She hopes to become a social worker in the middle school setting. Coleman is the wife of Wayne Coleman, who is executive director of Core City, CCDA of Holland, and the mother of three children.

Curry is principal at West Middle School and is an administrator for Holland public schools. She has her Bachelor of Arts degree in music education and a Master of Arts in leadership/administration. She has been involved in administration for five years. Prior to her job as principal she was a music teacher for 14 years. She is married and has four children.

Johnson is an assistant professor of history at Hope. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in history and teacher education from Bowie State University in Maryland, and his master's and doctorate degrees from Kent State University in Ohio. His doctoral dissertation, "The Tracks of War: Confederate Strategic Rail Policy and the Struggle for the Baltimore & Ohio," established him as one of the few African American historians specializing in the South and the Confederacy. His other subfields of specialization are U.S. military history; U.S. 20th Century history; and Africa. Students at Hope have elected him recipient of both the "Hope Outstanding Professor Educator" (H.O.P.E.) Award and the "Favorite Faculty/Staff Member" Award.

Maxwell worked for State Farm Insurance for 20 years before coming to West Ottawa as a teacher.  She worked her way through college while she was working at State Farm.  She has been at Pine Creek for the past three years, starting as a second grade teacher and now teaching fourth and fifth grade.