Adult ed official honored as hero by national association

Ruth Kemp

Ruth Kemp

RESTON, Va., – Ruth Kemp, athletic director, academic adviser and physical education teacher in the Southgate Community School District, recently received the first Unsung Hero Award from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

The honor was presented last month in Indianapolis at the NASPE Hall of Fame Banquet, which was held during the week-long national convention of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Sponsored by the NASPE Past Presidents’ Circle, the award recognizes a physical education teacher or sport coach from the district co-hosting the convention who has gone the extra mile to support youth. In appreciation for everything that person has contributed, the individual is invited to participate in the 125th annual convention of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, as the guest of the NASPE Past Presidents.

Along with her award, Kemp received a one-year membership to NASPE/AAHPERD as well as travel, accommodations and registration to attend the convention.

“The greatest rewards for me come from working with those students that struggle to achieve a specific skill and finally master it,” Kemp said. “Those are the ones you remember.”

“By reviewing her contributions, it is obvious that Ruth Kemp has been the driving force behind the success of the Southgate Adult and Community Education alternative high school’s physical education program,” said NASPE Past President Fran Cleland. “The NASPE Past Presidents are thrilled that we are able to recognize one hero who is clearly making a difference in students’ present and future lives.”

SACE’s alternative high school, the Advantage Academy, serves at-risk youth who need a second chance to earn their high school diplomas and to learn how to establish healthy and positive relationships with their peers.

“Ruth’s passion and dedication has reshaped the educational experience at our school,” said academic adviser Melanie Holland, who nominated Kemp for the recognition. “She strives to give our students as many diverse, unique and life-enriching experiences as possible through her innovative ideas, constant networking and searching and applying for grants.

“She does not let anything stand in the way of her vision or goals for the students in our program, and she constantly goes above and beyond her job expectations to further the opportunities that our program offers the students.”

Michigan’s at-risk, alternative high school student population has been increasing rapidly over the last decade, school officials say.

In 1996, SACE realized the importance of those students having an “alternative” way to earn their high school diplomas. The Advantage Academy operates as a school of choice, currently enrolling 675 students, ages 16 through 19, from 23 surrounding school districts.

Southgate officials say that thanks to the efforts of dedicated staff members like Kemp, the dropout rate in the district and the region has decreased because students have a second chance to accomplish their goals and improve their futures.

While creating the new physical education program, Kemp strived to meet all Michigan Merit Curriculum guidelines and Michigan high school graduation requirements. By using community resources and connections to real-life role models, Kemp’s golf and fitness program gives at-risk youth the opportunity to participate in a sport that most would not have access to due to economic reasons or lack of available resources.

Kemp also helped create a positive relationship between students and the city’s Police Department by having them golf together. In addition to securing grants from the United States Golf Association as well as the PGA of America Growth of the Game Grant, she encouraged members of the community to donate equipment.

Students enrolled in the program also have the opportunity to play free of charge at two local golf courses. In 2009 the golf and fitness program won its most recent award, the Best of the Best Award by the Michigan Association of School Boards.

Kemp was named the Southgate Community School District’s Employee of the Year in 2007. She serves on the board of directors for the Michigan Alternative Athletic Association and the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education, as well as the association’s governmental affairs committee.

Consistently working on new projects to enrich the athletic program, Kemp now is trying to develop a softball/baseball diamond behind the school and is working with the district’s grant administrator to apply for grants and get volunteers to help with fundraising. The goal is to host tournaments and competitions with other alternative schools across the state.

“I am currently working with our staff on the Asher Field of Dreams project,” Kemp said. “The school has a physical education department as well as an after-school athletic program, yet it has no outdoor facilities whatsoever.

“Our at-risk youth deserve a space of their own to foster their athletic abilities and passions.”

Other honorees at the banquet, sponsored by Playworld Systems, include the National Physical Education Teachers of the Year for Elementary, Middle and High School, the National Physical Education Administrator of the Year as well as the Athletic Director of the Year.

NASPE is a nonprofit professional membership association that sets the standard for practice in physical education and sport. Its 15,000 members include K-12 physical education teachers, coaches, athletic directors, athletic trainers, sport management professionals, researchers, and college/university faculty who prepare physical activity professionals.

NASPE seeks to enhance knowledge, improve professional practice, and increase support for high-quality physical education, sport and physical activity programs. It is the largest of the five national associations that make up the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance.
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