New Detroit’s 'Closing the Gap' announces 2015 honorees

Closing the GapNew Detroit, Inc. will honor a major sports franchise with the most racially diverse leadership team in its league, a scholarship fund that achieves a 92 percent graduation rate of its recipients, a highly respected Detroit civic leader and a young leader who is making an impact on race relations in the region at its “Closing the Gap” awards dinner Wednesday, June 17.
All of these individuals and organizations have positively impacted issues and policies to ensure economic and social equity in Southeast Michigan.
The “Closing the Gap” award ceremony and dinner will take place on Wednesday, June 17 at 5:30 Cobo Hall and honor:

  • Corporate Award: The Detroit Lions


  • Nonprofit Award: Coleman A. Young Foundation


  • Young Leader in Action Award: Theresa Q. Tran


  • John Rakolta, Jr. Leadership in Race Relations Award: Paul Hillegonds

Jamie Jacob, CEO of Ajax Paging Industries, Inc., is serving as the event chair.  Awards will be presented by Shirley R. Stancato, New Detroit President and CEO, and William S. Taubman, New Detroit Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Taubman Centers, Inc.
“The ‘Closing the Gap’ awards highlight individuals and organizations who, in their everyday activities advance race relations in a variety of ways, said New Detroit President and CEO Shirley Stancato.  “This year’s honorees represent a broad cross section of the community and each, in their own way, has moved racial affairs in our region forward in a significant manner.   Each in their own way has advanced New Detroit’s goal of closing the gap between the races.”
The Detroit Lions’ commitment to building a diverse team is demonstrated by their current management roster.  With General Manager Martin Mayhew and Head Coach Jim Caldwell, the Lions are the only team in the NFL with African Americans serving as their general manager and head coach.  In addition, the team’s diversity is extended even further in other senior management positions.
Because of their track record of hiring, the Lions received The Fritz Pollard Alliance Game Ball Award in a ceremony at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this year for their commitment to extending opportunities to minorities and the success that has followed.  At the time of the award, General Manager Mayhew said, “This honor truly is a reflection of our entire organization’s commitment to diversity and that commitment starts with The Ford Family and their long-standing support in this area.
Since its founding in 1982, the Coleman A. Young Foundation has awarded more than $4 million in scholarships to more than 400 students.  The foundation mentors each of its scholarship recipients throughout their college years, a major reason it has achieved a graduation rate of 92 percent, which compares to a national overall graduation rate for college students of 59 percent and a much lower graduation rate for urban students.  Currently, there are 95 scholarship recipients in college from diverse racial backgrounds.
In addition to awarding scholarships, the foundation’s Real Skills program for sixth through eleventh grade students provides them with meaningful information and valuable tools that prepare them for a positive school experience.  The Real Skills program includes preparing for educational opportunities beyond high school; building career awareness and exploring employment options, understanding personal finance, and managing personal and professional relationships.
Theresa Q. Tran is a young leader in Southeast Michigan who is making an impact on race relations.  Tran is the Executive Director of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan (AIPIAVote-MI).)
In addition to working extensively on election efforts, Tran has led various APIAVote-MI projects including the founding of the Youth Leadership Core, the Racial Equity Initiative (a partnership of four State and community based organizations to address structural barriers for vulnerable South Asian American children and youth), and the groundbreaking development and release of Rising Voices, Revealing Truths, the first of its kind needs assessment report of the APIA community in Southeastern Michigan.
She has also consulted with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, managing youth philanthropy initiatives, and Esteemed Human Development International, facilitating corporate cultural competency.  She was recently named a Fellow of the inaugural class of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Community Leadership Network, a national fellowship network targeting individuals who can be transformative change agents in their communities so that vulnerable children and their families can achieve optimal health and well-being, academic achievement and financial security.
Paul Hillegonds’ career in public service and in the private sector has earned him wide respect for his thoughtfulness, fairness, civility and effectiveness in forging a consensus in the development of constructive public policy.  Paul served as a member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 1979 to 1996, during which his colleagues elected him to the position of Speaker of the House.  He was known for his ability to work both sides of the aisle to bridge political differences and was widely respected by members of both political parties.
In 1997, Paul became president of Detroit Renaissance, a corporate leadership organization focused on improving Detroit, a post he held until 2005, He then moved to DTE Energy, where he served as Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs until retiring in 2014.  In March of 2015 Paul was named CEO of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.   A very visible example of his commitment to social engagement was when he served as co-chair of One United Michigan, which opposed Proposition 2 in 2006, an effort to ban affirmative action in state contracting, employment and higher education. Hillegonds believes that dismantling barriers that have undermined racial diversity in Southeast Michigan is critical to the region’s success. He is a sought after speaker who is comfortable dealing with discussing race and social justice as issues within our community.
Individual tickets are $150 and a range of sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, contact Angela Richardson at 313-664-2047, or


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