Cassopolis councilman, teacher a voice for the youth

This February, to celebrate Black History Month, Leader Publications is sharing profiles of African American leaders and community members making history in southwest Michigan. This week, Leader Publications spoke to  Stefon Luckey, who hopes to be a model for Cassopolis youth.

CASSOPOLIS — Stefon Luckey is a man who wears many hats in the Cassopolis community.

Luckey, 29, balances being a member of the Cassopolis Village Council, a seventh-grade teacher at Cassopolis Middle School and a coach for the district’s girls basketball program.

The work is demanding, yet rewarding, a combination Luckey would not trade for anything.

It is all part of his goal to be a leader for the community’s youth.

“I feel like this is what I have been called to do,” Luckey said.

According to Luckey, his journey to leadership began at the age of 11 when he was taken in by his uncle Dan Lee and his wife, Charlene. Dan Lee was the recreation director for Cassopolis Public Schools, where he ran summer programs for youth. He founded the Cassopolis Community Association to mentor and tutor at-risk youth and started the Cassopolis Rocket Football program as well as the youth basketball program.

Lee died in 2011 but the impact he made on Stuckey’s life resonates to this day.

“There was some uncertainty at first,” Luckey said. “I had bounced around to a few foster homes. It was horrible. They welcomed me in. I loved basketball before and with his love for the game I had no choice but to keep that going. Once I saw the impact that he had on the community and the schools, I knew what I wanted to do.”

Lee helped Luckey develop into a local basketball star. He spent three years on varsity for the Cassopolis boys basketball team before playing college ball at Glen Oaks Community College. His play on the court earned him a scholarship to Goshen College in Indiana, where he earned his teaching degree.

Luckey spent several years traveling the globe as a basketball player, including stops in Florida, Canada, Taiwan and Australia. The time abroad reinforced Luckey’s desire to mentor the youth.

“Going overseas, you end up mentoring kids from across the world,” Luckey said. “I was able to be a mentor, coach and train. I’ve always been able to connect to the youth, and playing internationally allowed me to get into mentorship full force.”

While playing in Australia, Luckey met fellow basketball player William Shackleford, who took him under his wing.

“Being under him and seeing how he worked with kids had a big effect on me,” Luckey said. “He pushed me to be more involved.”

After spending five years playing basketball abroad, Luckey was ready to take his talents back to Cassopolis and give back to his community. He started teaching at the middle school last year and began coaching boys and girls basketball.

“This is a great building,” Luckey said. “The staff we have here is great and so is the leadership. Principal Carey May does a great job. It’s great to get up and go to work. It’s definitely a great place to spend the day.”

In March of last year, a seat opened up on the Cassopolis Village Council. Feeling he could make a difference in the community, Luckey interviewed for the seat and was sworn in as a trustee. In November, Luckey ran for his seat in the election and won a four-year term.

“I looked at the council and saw that there was not someone in my age range that had a voice,” Luckey said. “There was a disconnect with my era and the ones above me. They would feel more comfortable coming to me with ideas. I felt I would have a voice. I am very youth-based, and I feel like that is where our community starts. There was a stretch where it was missing and I thought that me stepping in would provide a voice for the younger generation.”

Over the next five years, Luckey hopes to continue coaching girls basketball and has his sights set on varsity someday. As a village council member, he’s proud of the work he has put into the community and is looking forward to future projects.

“We have great things going,” Luckey said. “We have a beach coming and new businesses are coming in. I would like to get some sort of recreation center for youth activities and other events. Our community is growing, and I want to continue to draw people to the village.

Luckey does not take his positions lightly. As a young black man in today’s social climate, he knows how important it is for the black and brown youth of Cassopolis to see someone who looks like them in positions of power.

“It means a lot,” he said. “For me to be in that position, it is very important for them to see where I’ve been and where I came from. I think it is very important to see the world. Through me, they can see that their dreams are possible. It takes a village to raise a child. I really believe that, and I want to inspire the next generation of young leaders to dream big.”

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