Sterling Heights

Sterling Heights' diversity awards recognize young residents' role in promoting inclusion

After witnessing a racist incident in his community, Sterling Heights resident Malcom Charles established a student-led group called Stomp Racism. The group set out to create change in the Warren Consolidated School District, providing opportunities for students to learn cultural competency, advocacy, and the impact of racism within society. It now has over 100 members.

This week, Charles was one of five local residents recognized for their work advocating for diversity in Sterling Heights. The Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee presented the 13th annual Diversity Distinction Awards at the city council’s Tuesday meeting, a presentation that usually occurs at the city's annual diversity dinner event

“All of these honorees strengthen Sterling Heights’ quality of life through their dedication to making Sterling Heights a community of inclusion and cultural understanding,” Ethnic Community Committee Chair Willie Dechavez said.

“Each winner of this year’s award has earned this distinction."

Charles, now a student at Michigan State University, organized a peaceful protest in June in front of the Sterling Heights Public Library, inviting students and community members to remember the lives and families of those impacted by racial discrimination or police brutality and to shine a light on the importance of the youth voice. He has also been involved in the Sterling Heights Drug Free Coalition, specifically the Smart Moves program, and was a member of the National Honors Society and the Leadership Program at Sterling Heights High School until he graduated this year.

Sterling Heights resident Ted Amsden, a senior consultant with The Leadership Group LLC, was awarded for his work with non-profit organizations on projects involving community engagement, fundraising consulting, diversity and inclusion assessment and training, and team building. He is a member of the Baha’i Faith and has served as president of several non-profits including the International Institute of Metro Detroit, Model of Racial Unity, Inc. and the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Foundation. Amsden has published six articles on diversity and has co-facilitated diversity and inclusion workshops for nearly 30 years.

Two young residents, 11-year-old James Oh and eight-year-old Michaella Oh began their community service and volunteerism at a very young age. Both contribute to the efforts to promote cultural diversity by participating in events such as the City’s Sterlingfest and Cultural Exchange. They have also shared their Filipino culture at the city's annual Diversity Distinction Awards dinners and Memorial Day parade, as well as Asian Cultural Heritage Days and Filipino American friendship dinners. 

Stephen Slancik and the staff of Schuchard Elementary were recognized for their work in the education sector. Slancik is the principal of the elementary school and has been a part of Utica Community Schools for 24 years. Out of 630 students at the school, 85% live in a home where a second language is spoken, with 70% identifying as Arabic and/or Chaldean. In 2019, Slancik and his staff created their first Cultural Celebration Day and have spent several years focusing on cultural proficiency,  raising awareness about issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout the school and the city.
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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at