Dexter’s Joe Evans Receives Prestigious “Service Above Self” Award from Rotary International

STRIVE Mentor and Dexter Rotarian Joe Evans has been awarded Rotary’s “Service Above Self Award” for his work with area youth through the STRIVE program.

The “Service Above Self Award” is Rotary’s highest honor for individual members. This award is designed to recognize those individual Rotarians who have exhibited exemplary humanitarian service with emphasis on personal volunteer work that directly helps others through Rotary.

STRIVE is a program that was first developed by a Rotary club in Minnesota and has since been adopted and adapted by Rotary clubs in Michigan. STRIVE stands for Students Taking a Renewed Interest in Education. Joe, a retired naval pilot, flight school, instructor, and recruiter, uses his experience with young adults to fill in some mentorship gaps they may have experienced growing up.

Joe Evans seated with STRIVE student Andrew Shilling

Speaking at a Dexter United Methodist Breakfast last winter Joe explained, “These youth I work with in the STRIVE program are just like the youth I’ve been working with for years now with a couple of striking differences. One, they don’t have a sense of community. Two, they don’t have a sense of direction. They don’t have a course, a map or a compass. They don’t know where to go. Other than that, they’re just like everyone else.”

Rotary past President Dr. Julie Schumaker presented the award and had this to say:

One of the club’s largest efforts this year was developing the STRIVE Program for students in the new Dexter Alternative High School.  Joe Evans took the lead in developing this program.  $8,000 in scholarships was awarded to five students in the inaugural class graduating from DAHS.  Five club members and one non-Rotarian stepped up to be mentors helping students register for classes and checking in weekly during their first year at WCC.  Joe put together a financial aid workshop, and Career Days arranging visits to Dominos headquarters, Old National Bank, LaFontaine Chevrolet, and Delta Air Lines.  The dedication of the team resulted in all five STRIVE scholarship students successfully completing their first year at college!  For his leadership in developing the STRIVE Program, Joe Evans was awarded the club’s first “Service above Self” award.

Joe has worked closely with Dexter Alternative High School led by Dr. Julie Snider. Established in 2016, the Alt Ed Program is designed to help students who, for various reasons, would benefit from an alternative educational experience using proven intervention strategies and innovative teaching techniques that enable students to stay on track to graduate.

Joe and his wife, Stephanie, saw that even though the schools work hard to create opportunity for all students, there were kids falling through the cracks in the system.  “They don’t join dance team,” Joe said. “They don’t join sports club because all that stuff is for somebody else. That’s the way they feel. Those opportunities in life that you and I just take for granted, these kids don’t think they are for them.”

Dr Julie Snider speaking as Joe Evans and Dr Julie Schumaker look on

Joe explained that “STRIVE is all about getting them involved, engaged with a sense of trust, a sense of community. To get them to see that there’s real opportunities that exist out in the world and those opportunities might be theirs.”

Dr. Snider also spoke at the presentation and had this to say about Dexter Rotary, STRIVE, and Joe’s work:

I’ve never seen a group that works together so well to support one another, and the initiatives of one another to transform a community.  The (STRIVE) success is a result of the environment that this Rotary Club is.  The goal (of Alt Ed) is to graduate kids and I learned very quickly that you have to give them a vision beyond that or they don’t move forward. Joe and the Rotary Club have become a cornerstone of that look into the future.

As for Joe, I really can’t say enough. Early on in our program, Joe started meeting with me and every time we met he would ask, ‘What can we do to help?’  Those words are always heard but they tend to ring kind of hollow, but Joe kept coming back and coming back. Each time he would ask, ‘What can we do for you?’ I began to realize that he might mean it. As a result of that, we have the STRIVE scholarships.

The incredible thing to me about Joe is that despite all of his work ethic and driven qualities, he doesn’t look at my kids and judge. He just wants to know, ‘What can I do to help?’

Upon receiving the award, Joe said, “I just want to say it absolutely takes the whole Rotary Club to make this happen. It takes the inclusiveness of the club supporting these kids as they go through their education.”

If you would like to learn more about Dexter Rotary and the work such as STRIVE that they do in the Dexter community, you can visit their website at https://rotarydexter.org/

If you would like to know more about Dexter Alternative High School, you can find it at https://www.dexterschools.org/page.cfm?p=1861

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