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Celebrating Local Black Heroes: Dorothy Young

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

Dorothy Young “devoted her life to ensuring all children were given a chance to reach their potential.” She had a giving heart and a passion for children and education. We talked with Young’s granddaughter, Britney Bolden, for an inside look at Young’s life and legacy.

Early Life

Young grew up as the baby in a family with twelve kids. Having such a large family instilled a drive and determination in her to always strive for the best. Her family’s strong commitment to education also proved pivotal to her identity and life’s work.

After graduating with honors from a segregated high school in Tennessee, Young went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree in education, and then her Master’s degree in French from Western Michigan University. She quickly put her degrees to work at Kalamazoo Public Schools as a teacher, and later became principal of Hillside Middle School.

Inspiring Personal and Academic Confidence

Young used every day to support and encourage her students the same way she supported and encouraged her own family. “Because of my grandma, I am goal driven and I feel confident that nothing can stop me,” Bolden says. “I am very humble and hardworking because of her influence.”

Knowing that some students might need more than the time spent in class, Young started several tutoring programs in the schools where she worked. These programs exemplified her dedication to the future of her students, especially those who might need a little more support.


In 2017, Kalamazoo Public Schools recognized her achievements and commitment to youth with the naming of the Dorothy P. Young Cafeteria, and a street near Hillside in her honor. This is was just one of many honors in her long, storied life.

After retirement, she continued to actively serve several organizations: Northside Association for Educational Advancement, Community Advocates for Parents and Students (CAPS), Mothers of Hope, and the NAACP among them.

Bolden shared her grandmother’s life goal, “May the work that I have done speak for me.” While Dorothy Young passed away just this November, her impact in the community lives on.

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