The Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee chose six honorees for its ninth annual Diversity Distinction Awards, presented at City Council’s Dec. 6 meeting.
The Ethnic Committee is proud to partner with the City Council in presenting the award trophies, provided through the generosity of Comcast, to deserving individuals and organizations that make a difference in our community.
The committee honored two businesses, one organization and three individuals. They included:
Antonio's Italian Market, located in Sterling Heights and owned by Tony Nofar, has been serving the community since 1985. The Antonio's family that started the business still works there daily and continues to have a strong commitment to its customers.
This gourmet market caters to a variety of ethnic backgrounds with its vast array or food and produce that satisfy a wide spectrum of cultures. Antonio's also employs individuals with various diverse backgrounds. These dedicated employees go above and beyond to fill special orders for all customers.
The owners of Antonio's are constant supporters of community events, including donating food items to the Sterling Heights Cultural Exchange, sponsored by the Ethnic Committee Community, and contributing to school fundraising efforts, most recently at Stevenson High School.
The Michigan chapter of the United States Pinoys for Good Governance is non-profit organization with a mission of educating the community members about the principals and values of good governance; and promoting the history, culture and values of Filipino Americans for better understanding. This organization also works diligently to encourage Filipinos to register and vote during all elections. USP4GG also promotes participation on a variety of projects and events that benefit the common good of the residents of Sterling Heights while providing them with a taste of the history and culture of their Filipino neighbors.
These projects and events include the group's participation in the Sterling Heights Memorial Day Parade with their "Philippine Float" and continued participation and support of the city's Cultural Exchange. Other events supported by the USP4GG include Filipino American Friendship Day and the Taste of Philippine Cuisine event held in October in celebration of Filipino American History Month.
Members of this organization continue to take part in many activities that help to eliminate prejudices and stereotypes in the city of Sterling Heights and promote the rich history, culture and traditional family values of the Filipino American community.
Houda Diaconescu, a resident of Sterling Heights, is an immigrant from Algeria who came to the United States only 12 years ago. At the time, she spoke three languages, although English was not one of them. She turned to the Macomb Literacy Partners for help, and quickly picked up on the English language; so much so that she now volunteers with Macomb Literacy as a tutor.
Houda also volunteers her time with Welcoming Michigan, participating in the ESL Conversation Program and coached a girls' soccer team during the Friendship Games soccer tournament at Delia Park this past summer. At the event, Houda met a local refugee family, headed by a single mom who was disabled. Houda didn't hesitate to help out this family and donated $1,200 to help them, along with many bags of clothing and soccer gear for the children. Despite being a busy, working mom, Houda always goes above and beyond with her generosity. Being an immigrant, she knows what newcomers have experienced and works very hard to help the next generation feel welcomed and succeed in their new life here.
Susan Kozloff faces diversity every day in her line of work. Susan is a counselor at Sterling Heights High School, the most diverse school in Macomb County, with over 55 languages spoken by the students. Susan goes above and beyond to make sure that all of her students are on the right path for a successful future. Many times students come to the high school with a several-year lapse in their education; Susan works diligently to assure that they will stay on track to receive their high school diploma and will further consult and direct them towards college and future studies, leading them to a successful future. Susan is currently taking classes to learn the Arabic language, so that she could gain better insight and understanding of her students.
In 2015, Ms. Kozloff assisted a female refugee student and her guidance helped the student receive her diploma in 2 1/2 years and graduate with a 4.2 GPA. Craig Miller, principal at the high school, stated that Ms. Kozloff attends several cultural events with the students and was even a guest at a student's Bengali wedding over the summer. In addition, Mr. Miller stated that she always networking with various outside agencies to help provide additional support for the students.
Susan demonstrates a true champion of diversity and sees beyond the limitations and diversity of her students and believes that each and every student is capable of being successful. Susan has also contributed to Sterling Heights High School becoming one of the top high schools in Macomb County.
Mihaela Mitrofan is a Resettlement Program Manager with Samaritas Resettlement Agency, formerly Lutheran Social Services of Michigan. Mihaela's role is to oversee the wellness of the resettled refugees and she is always takes her role outside of the office. She has been serving refugees since 1996, helping newcomers from Bosnia and Serbia in the 90s, followed by refugees from Iraq, and more recently from Syria, Congo, Sudan and more. Mihaela has attended many immigrant and refugee related events. She is bold enough to speak out on their behalf and caring enough to walk into their homes to ensure that they have food and that their needs are met.
Ms. Mitrofan is a role model for her colleagues and a well-known name in the community. Although she works many hours in the office, you can also find Mihaela bringing doughnuts to families in hotels on the weekends, or helping move a family from one residence to another so that the kids are closer to their school.
Mihaela is also setting a great example for her daughters, who volunteer as tutors for refugee children and are involved in the World Refugee Day events.
Bozek's Market, owned by Mike and Gabriela Bozek, has been a successful Sterling Heights business for almost 10 years. . Immigrants from Poland, they have integrated nicely into the Sterling Heights community and pride themselves in offering a wide variety of imported delicacies to their customers of all ethnicities. Bozek's specializes in Central and Eastern European foods, and enjoy bringing the foods and culture of their Polish heritage to all of their customers. The owners at Bozek's Market continue to give back to the community by supporting local events; they have been continuous sponsors of the Sterling Heights Cultural Exchange for the past ten years, gladly donating food to the Ethnic Community Committee's signature event.
Sterling Heights Ethnic Community Committee Chair Shawn Taylor said the committee takes great pride in selecting and honoring individuals, organizations and businesses for their efforts in promoting diversity throughout the city