News & Blog: Advocate Spotlights


 Spend an hour listening to Denise Joseph tell stories of teaching and volunteering and you’ll know right away why the Literacy Center is honoring her with the Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year Award at this year’s Spellebration event.

Denise and Jung Kun

A special education teacher in Comstock Park for more than 30 years, Denise was already a seasoned teacher when she started tutoring at the Literacy Center 10 years ago. Since that time, she’s tutored seven learners from all over the world. Denise is currently tutoring Jung Kun, a young mother from Korea whose husband attends Calvin Seminary. The two have a close relationship, although Denise is the first to point out that she's probably learning more from Jung Kun than the other way around. 

Abdikarim Osman, one of Denise’s previous learners, overcame his own preconceptions in order to work with Denise. Abdi wrote in 2012, “Chris [a Literacy Coordinator] called to tell me about Denise. When she gave me a choice of a man or woman tutor, at first I told her I preferred a man. But when she mentioned Denise, I accepted, and we are doing great after six months together.” He sums up all of our appreciation with this simple phrase, “Thank you, Denise!”

Never one to slow down, Denise also sings with the Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus, takes Spanish classes at Grand Rapids Community College, and serves in leadership at Fountain Street Church. In addition, she serves as the “adopted Grandmother” of a family of Eritrean refugees who settled in Grand Rapids.

Join us in honoring Denise at our 24th Annual Spellebration event on May 11, 2017.  For more details or to purchase tickets, visit

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