Noted actor, literacy advocate LeVar Burton coming to Kokomo

Burton will speak at student convocation, community banquet in February

LeVar Burton Coming to Kokomo in February

LeVar Burton
Coming to Kokomo in February

KOKOMO, Ind. — LeVar Burton, noted actor and host of the original “Reading Rainbow” PBS series, is coming to Kokomo in February as guest speaker in Ivy Tech Community College’s annual “Doing the Dream” celebration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Burton, cofounder of the award-winning “Reading Rainbow” digital library and an actor known for his distinguished television roles, will share his passion for children’s literacy and living to one’s full potential with community members at a banquet on Thursday, Feb. 5, and with area high school students at a free convocation on Friday, Feb. 6.

Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) and the Community Foundation of Howard County are serving as lead sponsors for the “Doing the Dream” celebration with $5,000 donations to support participation by a noted speaker. This is the third year for NIPSCO’s participation at this level and the second year for the Community Foundation grant. Additional support is being sought.

“We are so excited to have the opportunity to bring LeVar Burton to Kokomo,” said Michelle Simmons, president of Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Campus. “His accomplishments span several generations. Some of us remember him as Kunte Kinte in the amazing 1977 TV series ‘ROOTS.’ Many who were youngsters between 1983 and 2009 will know him best as the host and producer of the PBS children’s series ‘Reading Rainbow.’ And then there are the Trekkies who will think of him as Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge in ‘The Next Generation’ TV series and feature films.

“No matter what triggers the memories,” Simmons continued, “I think LeVar Burton will spark the interest of many people in reserving seats for the events we are planning.”

Kelly Karickhoff, executive director of Resource Development for Ivy Tech’s Kokomo Region, said, “We extend our thanks to NIPSCO and the Community Foundation for again stepping up to help us bring such an important and powerful speaker to our community.” To further help underwrite the cost of the programming, Karickhoff is contacting individuals, organizations and businesses in the Kokomo region with information about other sponsorship opportunities, which include tickets to a VIP speaker’s reception with Burton before the Feb. 5 dinner.

“We have a number of ways the community can help cover the expenses of our ‘Doing the Dream’ activities, which includes support of the Feb. 6 convocation where we expect 1,000 students will have the chance to hear Mr. Burton’s message,” Karickhoff continued. “Area school superintendents have been invited to bring their high school students to the free convocation and reservations are being taken on a first come-first served basis up to the 1,000-student limit.”

In January, a number of schools reserved the 1,000 seats for the first such convocation planned when Ivy Tech brought best-selling author Wes Moore to Kokomo as the 2014 “Doing the Dream” speaker.

“Unfortunately,” Simmons noted, “Mother Nature had other ideas with snow and frigid temperatures forcing most schools to close for the day. We hope to again have reservations to fill the convocation … and hope we don’t have a repeat of that weather!”

Dr. Doug Arnold, superintendent of Maconaquah School Corporation, is one area school leader who is looking forward to bringing students to the event.

“We at Maconaquah were the first to register students for the Wes Moore convocation in January and we were very disappointed that weather got in the way of such an amazing opportunity,” Arnold said. “We are extremely pleased that Ivy Tech is trying again … and with a speaker so well-known by so many people.

“As any teacher knows, reading is the key to all education,” he continued. “LeVar Burton has spent most of his adult life sharing his love for this critical human skill – and has done it in a popular and entertaining way that connects with his audiences. How exciting to have him here to speak to our students.”

To get more information about sponsorship opportunities, contact Karickhoff at 765-459-0561, ext. 296, or kkarickhoff@ivytech.edu. To get more information about participating in the student convocation, contact Leo Studach, associate professor of science and a lead on the “Doing the Dream” activities, at 574-753-5101, ext. 2209, or lstudach@ivytech.edu . Information about banquet tickets and event sponsorships is available at ivytech.edu/kokomo/levarburton2015.html .

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About Ivy Tech Kokomo Region

Ivy Tech Community College Kokomo Region serves Cass, Fulton, Howard, Miami, and Tipton counties and includes campuses or instructional sites in the communities of Kokomo, Logansport, Peru, and Rochester. Ivy Tech serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association. For more information, visit www.ivytech.edu.
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