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Celebrating Local Black Heroes: Deveta Gardner

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Michigan is proud to celebrate Local Black Heroes in honor of Black History Month. Join us on social media and our website throughout February to learn more about the impact of local heroes in your community.

Dr. Deveta Gardner, is a tenacious leader in Kalamazoo. She gives back to her community by providing a safe space for anyone who might need her. “I am a seed planter. I give students an opportunity to see the good in themselves and challenge them to grow… I listen, challenge, and support them toward their goals and dreams.

Gardner serves as the Associate Dean of University College at Western Michigan University (WMU), a new college focused on centralizing academic advising to holistically meet students’ needs. Her drive to provide direction and encouragement for her students and the community at large sets the gold standard for leading with heart.

Youth Involvement

In addition to working at WMU, Gardner has been the Head Cheer Coach for Kalamazoo Central High School since 1990. She shares, “Our young people need us. They are energetic, and full of great ideas that can inspire us. They are our future.” In 2012, Competitive Cheer Coaches of Michigan recognized her as District Coach of the Year.

Her unconditional love for the youth surrounding her creates waves of impact on her community. She is constantly working behind the scenes to advocate for young people, especially young women.

Gardner sits on several boards, and was recently named Chair for the board of the Douglass Community Center, which serves the Northside neighborhood and greater Kalamazoo community as a center for social, recreational, and community development activities.

Since 2008, she has volunteered for Girls on the Run, a girl’s empowerment program. Gardner was also a Big Sister, mentoring and making a lifelong impact on her Little Sister Tomeajoy from 2007-2011. Learn how you can get involved as a Big here.


Gardner recounts that she is inspired both by the people who believe in her, but also by those who don’t. She explains that they motivate her to fulfill her purpose.

Her drive as the Associate Dean of University College at WMU and as the Head Cheer Coach for Kalamazoo Central High School are evidence that she wants to see, and help, other people succeed.

She notes, “My biggest inspiration comes from God giving me the opportunity to serve others. If I can assist someone else in reaching their goals and feeling good about it, I’ve done my job.” Gardner says her family has always been her motivation and biggest support.

Find Local Black Heroes throughout the month of February on social media and on our website. Visit for more information about how you can ignite the power and potential of youth in Southwest Michigan.