Clara Denise West, a native of Memphis, Tennessee, is the creator and owner of the Koko and Friends characters and the President/CEO of Koko and Friends Products, Inc. Brooklyn, NY. She is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Koko and Friends Foundation, Inc. A retired systems test engineer (National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the Marshall Space Flight Center and the US Army).
West holds a Ph.D. degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She earned Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Business and Security Management from Webster University. Moreover, she received Bachelor degrees in Electrical Engineering and Applied Mathematics from the University of Memphis. West is a graduate of Hamilton High School in Memphis, Tennessee.
Dr. West’s world change when her eight year old daughter attempted suicide as a result of peer bullying. In a journey to save her daughter, she created the Koko and Friends anthropomorphic characters targeting children ages 5-9. The age group is most influenced by parents as opposed to peers. She went on to develop the Koko and Friends Anti-bullying Program fro grades PreK-12; and the Last Straw “You Can’t Break Me!” Campaign. The Koko and Friends Project address the emotional issues amongst youth and has a social message that is universal across all cultures and socio-economic classes.
Efforts are presently underway to launch A Koko and Friends animated series for the 5-9 target market. The characters are representative of typical 21st century youth who learn life-lessons, character-building principles and values as well as develop life-long decision making skills through the game of basketball.
Dr. West is the author of Koko and Friends: Born to Play – Destined to Win!, Koko and Friends: Friends??? Oh, Really!!!, The Family That Plays Together, Stays Together, and Standing Strong. She is the creator of the Koko and Friends Anti-bullying Program and a co-developer of the Wise Up! Law and Order, Teen Pregnancy, and Gangs, Drugs, and Violence curriculums. She is also the creative force behind the Check Up!, Check This Out! and Check Point series for elementary school students; The Reality Check© booklets for middle and high school students -- Gangs, Gun Violence, Teen Pregnancy for Guys, Teen Pregnancy for Girls, Dating Violence for Victims, Dating Violence for Abusers, The Race Talk—Racial Profiling, Sexting and Sextortion, and Risky Sexual Behavior. She is the author of Koko and Friends: Born to Play – Destined to Win!, Koko and Friends: Friends??? Oh, Really!!!, The Family That Plays Together, Stays Together, and Standing Strong children’s books.
She has conducted numerous seminars and workshops around the country for youth and adults on the sensitive social topics that cause youth to make unwise, and sometimes fatal, decisions. “My hope is to raise the quality of life for our children in the most profoundly important way – change the way they think about themselves and others. This is, in a way, philosophy – using animation and real life experiences to bridge the connection between the way children think and act.”