Archive for the ‘Cultural Competence’ Category.

Warner Norcross Announces Winners of the 9th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest

Warner Norcross & Judd LLP announced the results of its Ninth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest.

The contest, which was open to all sixth-grade students attending Grand Rapids Public Schools, asked the students to prepare an essay focused on how Dr. King’s legacy of peace and justice applies to the world in which they live.  This year’s competition included entries from 289 students at nine schools.

Winners were:

  • Sofe Christine Blomeling, Riverside Middle School, grand prize
  • Sophia Crumback-Tarrien, Center for Economicology, first runner up
  • Maya Barbee, Center for Economicology, second runner up

Each winning student will receive a certificate of deposit and a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.  Additionally, 20 students from five schools received an award of honorable mention and a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.  All participating students will receive a personalized certificate of completion.

Blomeling has been invited to read her essay at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Peace Program on Monday, Jan. 20 at 12:30 p.m. following the Community Peace March and again at the Annual Celebration program that evening at 6 p.m.  Both events will be held at the Grand Rapids Community College Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse. All winners and honorable mentions are invited to attend both events and will be recognized as a group.

The three winning students will be given an opportunity to read their essays at the GRPS Board of Education meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, if time permits.  Warner Norcross Diversity Partner Rodney Martin will be in attendance to introduce the winning students and will present each winner and honorable mention student in attendance that night with their prizes and certificates.

Essays were judged by more than 40 Warner Norcross attorneys and staff according to Michigan Education Assessment Program guidelines for narrative writing.  The essays were evaluated for ideas, organization, style and conventions.

Here are the winning essays:


Riverside Middle School, Ms. Emily Holt, Teacher

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Izzy, and Me”

            Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is one of America’s heroes. He took the time and patience to try and fight calmly and nonviolently to win some of the true freedom of the United States of America. But anyone can be a true hero, not by a cape or tights and underwear, but having a kind heart, patience, and the willingness to put anyone else in front of them. He inspired me to think of other people first, and put their needs before mine. But I’m not writing about me. I’m writing about a true friend who saved me, and her name is Izzy.

            When I was younger, I attracted bullies like a magnet. I was so broken. I was super shy, and I always wore a scarf to hide myself. On one particular occasion, I decided not to. That was the day I made a new friend. It was at the Boys and Girls Club. I sat alone, afraid that if I left my spot I’d be bullied again. For some reason I got up and drew a picture on the chalkboard wall and sat back down. After about an hour, I heard someone yell saying, “WHO DREW THAT PICTURE?!” I went up to the girl and stammered, “I-I-I- I did. I’m so sor . . . “ Before I could finish, she interrupted me. She hugged me tightly and said, “It’s okay, I like it!” I was so shocked! It felt so nice to feel a friendly touch from somebody else.

            Izzy, Izabella, was like a true heroine. Before she came along, I used to feel depressed and kind of hopeless. She saved my life! She could relate to my feelings because she experienced pain from being bullied herself. Even so, she took the time to help me gain some self-confidence. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be such a good artist, singer, or have so many friends. She put my needs in front of her own, just like Dr. King would have. She put color back into my life! Whenever I try to give her something in return for her kindnesses she says, “You don’t need to give me anything. Just stay the way you are and be my good friend.” Izzy has the characteristics of a true personal hero, just like Dr. King did.

            America is still not entirely fair, and we may have a little too much freedom with things like bullying, stealing, kidnapping, murder, etc., but thank goodness Dr. King DID make a big hole in some of it. Some of Dr. King’s dreams have been fulfilled today. Dr. King, a man who started a fight for freedom without using violence, would’ve been proud to see that America is a bit freer than it was before he started this social revolution. No one’s life is insignificant. Saving anyone from life or death is a HUGE accomplishment.

            Like I said before, a hero doesn’t have to have a cape and super powers, or even save the world from an evil villain. Being a hero takes bravery, love, patience and the willingness to put yourself out there no matter who or what needs you. And that’s what Dr. King and Izzy have in common. They are heroes, and they are my role models. I think Dr. King would agree with me: Izzy is a true friend.



Center for Economicology, Mrs. Reed, Teacher

“Changing the World”

            Martin Luther King Jr. was a courageous man with a big heart. He started out with doing little things that grew and grew until he changed the world. I love animals, and I want to change the world for them. So, if he could do it, so can I.

            Animal cruelty is a horrible subject. Sadly enough, some people choose to be mean to innocent animals. My three cats were all strays, which means they came from the streets and from filthy shelters. One of them was abused by his past owner before he was kicked to the curb and then put in a cage. Adopting shelter cats and helping strays are two ways to make the world a better place. When I’m old enough, I hope to volunteer at my local animal shelter to help change the lives of animals in need.

            Litter is something else that I fight against. All this trash is damaging our planet, and we only get one to share with all other living things. I get angry when I see litter at my local park because wildlife could get hurt and their drinking water could get filled with garbage. Every Earth Day, my family and I go to the park and pick up almost all the trash we see in hope of saving animals. If I act like it’s Earth Day every day, I could make a massive difference in the lives of squirrels, deer, ducks, and many other animals that I never even see.

            Finally, people are animals too, and we can help each other in many ways. I, for example, give my friends and family nice compliments and a warm smile to make them feel better when they’re feeling down. I visit my elderly neighbor because I know that my visits cheer her up. Everyone should be warm and fed and no one should be without friends. Loneliness is like an illness. Laughter is the best medicine, so I pass it around for everyone to share.

            All of these things could make a huge difference to a lot of animals, big and small. They could even change the world! All of these subjects I wrote about have two things in common: kindness and hope. I will help as much as I can, but I hope that many will join me just like they joined Doctor King, who spoke to smaller crowds before he spoke to all of the citizens of the world. Right now, I’m just an eleven year old kid, but I’m already a hero to my three cats. When I grow up, there’ll be no limit to the animals I can help. That’s my dream.


Center for Economicology, Mrs. Reed, Teacher

 “Making the World A Better Place”

            Have you ever thought of all the problems in this world? For example, so many people without homes, so many people without jobs, kids or animals without homes, world hunger, global warming, pollution, kids without an education, and much more. There is always going to be a problem. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. That’s just the way life goes. If everyone contributes in some way, the world can become a better place for the children of the world to come.

            I personally do many little things to make the world a better place. I volunteered in a neighborhood for a program that gives kids free books. That means I helped some kids learn new things. I also convinced my family to get a dog. The dog we found was from a rescue organization. I happily saved a dog from being sent to a medical research facility where she could have gotten seriously hurt, or killed. I support The Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan by going to the Buddy Walk, and their annual Christmas celebration, which supports kids with Down Syndrome, like my sister. I also go to the store the weekend before Thanksgiving with my family. We get two Thanksgiving meals, for two families in need. Also, my grandma lives in a retirement home, so I do some things to help out there too. Many senior citizens get lonely, so even if I just talk to them, that makes them happy. I pass out newsletters, recycle papers, and many other different things.

            I want to encourage people to make a difference, by doing little things one step at a time. I think Dr. King would say, “Everyone can make a difference no matter who you are. Even if you give something you can’t see, like honesty or kindness. Even if you don’t have anything, you can give something.” Dr. King encouraged a lot of people, and made a difference. I want to be like him, and I hope everyone else does too.

            I can’t make anybody do anything, so all I can do is encourage. So many people don’t realize that they can help the world by doing little things. Dr. King was once a kid, everyone starts small, that’s how people grow. I can give my kindness, my heart, and everything else to try to get people to give back.

            Everyone can make a difference, or help in some way. If everyone works together, we can make the world a better place for now, and for the youth to come.

Warner Norcross Reads, Discusses Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking for its One Book, One Firm Series

The law firm of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP has chosen Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain as the 2013 selection for its One Book, One Firm series. 

Now in its sixth year, the popular One Book, One Firm series encourages the entire law firm to read the same book, then provides opportunities to create a series of firm-wide discussions based on the common experience.  Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking was inspired by Cain’s experience while practicing corporate law on Wall Street – as an introvert. 

Attorneys and staff from the seven offices of Warner Norcross across Michigan will join in a special lunch-and-learn program on Monday, July 15 to discuss the book.  The program will be led by Joe Day, a partner in Pondera Advisors, a leadership consulting practice that he co-founded in 2006. 

A self-described introvert, Day spent eight years as a professional hockey player, captaining four different teams and receiving numerous awards.  He will offer his insights into how introverts and extroverts can work together in an inclusive organization and, more generally, how personality type differences impact us at work and at home. 

“We often think about diversity and inclusion in terms of race and gender and, indeed, our past book selections have reflected this,” said Diversity Partner Rodney Martin. “There’s a growing movement, though, to expand the meaning to reflect other aspects of diversity and inclusion, such as cognitive or emotional diversity. 

“The book selected for this summer’s reading series, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, will allow all of us to reflect on the different approaches that people bring to the table in an effort to promote greater respect and understanding.” 

One Book, One Firm was launched in 2008 as part of the law firm’s ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives.  Additional books in the series have included: 

  • Stealing Buddha’s Dinner, a memoir about the experience of a Vietnamese girl growing up in West Michigan
  • Hands of My Father, the story of a hearing child who served as the go-between for his deaf parents and the hearing world
  • The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work, a work that analyzes the fundamental differences between how men and women operate within companies
  • The Help, the debut novel by author Kathryn Stockett that explores the relationships between black maids and the white families they work for and the children they raise in Jackson, Miss. 
  • The Spirit Catches You and Then You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, a book about the clash of traditional culture with modern medical culture.

Warner Leaders Participate in Inclusive Leadership Workshop

Arin ReevesWarner Norcross & Judd’s Managing Partner, Doug Wagner, was among 11 leaders from the firm who participated in the first annual Inclusive Leadership Workshop sponsored by the Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative.  The workshop, which was conducted on June 3 and June 4,   explored the difference between diversity and inclusion and the business case for diversity and inclusion in law firms.  Participants discussed implicit biases and learned how to identify impediments to inclusion in their firms.

The workshop was conducted by Dr. Arin Reeves, of Nextions LLC.  Dr. Reeves is one of the foremost consultants in the area of law firm diversity and inclusion. Her book, The Next IQ: The Next Level of Intelligence for 21st Century Leaders was published in 2012 by the American Bar Association. Dr. Reeves has worked with law firms and legal departments on diversity and inclusion for nearly 20 years. She is an advisor to the Center for Legal Inclusiveness in Colorado and is the co-author of its manual, Beyond Diversity: Inclusiveness in the Legal Workplace.

 The Managing Partners Diversity Collaborative was formed in 2011 by 12 of the largest law offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in association with the Grand Rapids Bar Association, to promote diversity and inclusion in our firms and the profession. Conducting the annual workshop is one of 45 action steps in the Collaborative’s Action Plan adopted in 2012.  Over 40 leaders from the 12 member firms participated in the workshop.

African American History to Come Alive at Fifth Third Bank

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

In celebration of Black History Month, Fifth Third Bank is hosting a live museum in the lobby of its main office in Grand Rapids (111 Lyon Street NW) on Friday, February 22.  All of the actors who will portray historical African Americans are employees of Fifth Third Bank – which makes it very cool.  The actors will reenact key moments of our nation’s past to educate and remind us of the journey our nation has traveled and honor the men and women who lived the story. Fifth Third Bank will come alive with characters impersonating some of the most important and influential figures in African American history. The Live Museum is in partnership with New Hope Baptist Church; characters will be dressed in period costumes and will reveal themselves by sharing details of their lives, struggles, and accomplishments. The historic icons will be played by Fifth Third employees and will include:  

  • Harriet Tubman
  • Dr. George Washington Carver
  • Daniel Hale Williams
  • Madame CJ Walker
  • Lonnie Johnson
  • Osceola McCarty
  • The Negro Mother

The living history museum will also be presented at Woodland Mall the following day.


Warner Norcross Partner Mary Jo Larson Honored By Leadership Detroit

Mary Jo Larson, a partner with the law firm of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP, is among a group of Leadership Detroit graduates who were honored earlier this month as “emerging leaders” at the 2012 Leadership Detroit Awards.

The award is the first ever made to a group and recognizes its members for continuing the work they began during their Leadership Detroit program to overcome racial lines in the city.  Normally Leadership Detroit programs end once the Leadership Detroit session itself concludes.

Larson, who concentrates her practice in employee benefits and executive compensation, is one of nine members of the group to earn the Emerging Leadership Award, which recognizes Leadership Detroit alumni who epitomize the spirit of lifelong leadership and community involvement.

Larson is recognized in Best Lawyers in America and Michigan Super Lawyers, which named her as one of the Top 50 Women Michigan Super Lawyers for the past four years.   She is also listed as a Top Lawyer in Employee Benefits by dbusiness magazine.

Larson is a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and a fellow of the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel.  She serves on the board of Forgotten Harvest and is active in teaching and lecturing.

2011 One Book, One Firm Selections Announced

The HelpOne Book, One FirmEach year in our One Book, One Firm program, Warner Norcross & Judd selects a book relating to diversity and inclusion and encourages everyone in the firm to read and discuss it. This year’s One Book, One Firm selection is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The Help tells the story of African American maids working in white households in Jackson, Mississippi, in the early 1960s. It is told from the point of view of three narrators, two of whom are maids and one of whom is a recent college graduate who comes home to find that the maid who helped raise her since childhood has suddenly disappeared. The book explores the complex relations between the black and white families of Jackson.

A movie based on the novel will be released in August. Here is the trailer:

As we have done in the past, we will be holding a movie night on the east and west sides of the State, when members of the firm and a guest can view the movie shortly after it is released. Details on that will follow.

Copies of The Help will be available in the firm’s Southfield library and in the coffee room in Grand Rapids. If you work in one of our other offices, contact M.L. Calvin and she will see that a copy from the library’s collection is sent to you through interoffice mail.

A Suggested Reading List

In addition to the One Book, One Firm selection, we have a suggested reading list of fiction and non-fiction books addressing diversity and inclusion. Copies of these books will be available to check out in Southfield and Grand Rapids. Again, contact M.L. Calvin if you work in one of our other offices to get a copy through interoffice mail.


Whistling vivaldiWhistling Vivaldi And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us by Claude Steele, explores the impact that stereotypes have on behavior and performance. Steele, a psychologist who teaches and is the Provost at Columbia University, offers suggestions on how we can reduce the impact of stereotypes.

In 2002, Deborah Rodriguez, a hairdresser from Michigan went to Afghanistan on a charitable aid mission. On seeing that the Taliban had closed all the beauty parlors, she set up a school to teach Afghan women to be beauticians. Along the way she helps Afghan women take a stand for independence. She wrote about it with a wicked sense of humor in The Kabul Beauty School. Her story was the subject of a documentary, which will be available on DVD in the One Book, One Firm collection.

Native American Testimony: A Chronicle of Indian-White Relations from Prophecy to the Present, 1492-2000 CoverNative America Testimony is a history of Native-white relations seen through Indian eyes and told through Indian voices. It is a compilation of primary source documents—spanning more than 500 years—in one very readable volume.

Choosing Civility is a self-help book. Why would I choose a self-help book on civility? As I reviewed Forni’s book, my thoughts jumped back to Craig Clayton, who spoke to us at our partners retreat several years ago in Detroit. Craig talked to us about microinequities – little things that can have a big impact on how inclusive an organization can be. I put his book on the list because I thought it might help us recognize some of those unintended behaviors in ourselves that can have such a big, negative impact on others.




Nikki Giovanni has gathered a collection of what she considers the 100 Best African American Poems. Giovanni has selected works from a broad range of poets from Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes to Rita Dove and Tupac Shakur, who give voice to the African American experience through their poetry.

The Namesake: A Novel CoverJhumpa Lahiri returns to our reading list with her novel, The Namesake. Like many of her short stories, The Namesake delves into the differences among generations in an Indian family that has immigrated to the United States. The Namesake was released as a motion picture, which will also be available in the firm’s collection.

Caramelo CoverIn Caramelo, author Sandra Cisneros tells the story of the Reyes family through the eyes of Celaya, the youngest and the only girl among seven siblings. The book follows Celeya as she grows up in a noisy, and loving family of Mexican Americans struggling to be successful in the United States while remaining true to their cultural heritage.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Slipcased Edition) CoverFinally, its been over 50 years since the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird. A standard of high school English courses, it is a classic exploration of racial inequality in the southern United States. While most of us have probably read it, it merits another read this summer. A copy of the classic movie adaption starring Gregory Peck will also be in the firm’s collection.