Black Lives Matter: Update April 2021

April 21, 2021

We believe that Black Lives Matter. Therefore, yesterday’s verdict provided a level of accountability that the family and friends of George Floyd deserved. However, we must continue to seek change so that no family must ever survive what they have faced, and that black and brown people in the United States can feel safe and valued. To our community members of color; we see you, we grieve with you, we celebrate with you. Your exhaustion and anger and joy are all valid and there is room for them all, and we respect whatever your response may be these events. Additionally, we hold firm in our commitment to continuously review ourselves as individuals and an organization to ensure that we perpetuate in our words and actions the value that your life holds and how much you do, in fact, matter. We understand that some may not agree with how we make these decisions; we simply ask for individuals to listen, choose empathy, and choose to imagine a world where we never have to ask whether or not a human life has worth and value. 

To our partners and mentors, we ask you to consider our mentees, over 90% who identify as people of color, who will grow up to look more like George Floyd than our white community members. What must it feel like to be a student, a child, and live through these events? If we truly believe in the worth, potential, leadership skills and value of our students, what do they need to see from us today? We know that children are intelligent, perceptive, and are always listening and learning from us; what will we teach them today about their own worth and place in this community?

We understand and validate that these conversations can be hard, or even frightening; please step into them. We know that the best thing we can do to support students increasing their Social Emotional Learning is by modeling if for them, so here are some ideas to engage and openly communicate with the students around you today:

  • Remember that you do not have to have an answer; use your OARS (O = Open Questions, A = Affirmations, R = Reflective Listening, S = Summarizing) to simply sit in this hard space with them and let them know you hear them.
  • Let’s remind ourselves that ignoring these difficult truths is not a service to children; engaging with them gives them a sense of safety, empowerment, worth, and helps them know they are free to ask questions and feel a full range of emotions.
  • We validate that it can be awkward to stay with the pain and confusion; please stay with it anyway.
  • We have included two resources shared by Grand Rapids Public Schools to help learn methods to hold open conversations and healthy discourse with students; take time today to ponder how you can use these skills and practices to support the growth and healing of students around you.
  • Never hesitate to reach out to Affinity staff members with questions, for support, or for additional resources. We are here for you. We do, however, want to make clear that we will not tolerate any communication or comments to or about students that puts their worth, or the worth of individuals who look like them, into question. 

May we each take time today to rest, reflect, breathe, and heal before we return to our work of pushing and striving, because “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Sincerely,

Cassandra L. Kiger, Executive Director of Affinity Mentoring 

Mentoring Max

April 1, 2021

Mentoring Max Activity Instructions

We know we’re Better Together and we want to see how you are staying together even while apart. Affinity Mentoring doesn’t need a physical Mentor Center to promote learning, creativity, and connection. Show us your favorite activities to do with your mentor, mentee, or family (virtually or safely + socially distanced)! Please note, anyone can participate – you do not need to be a current mentor or mentee.

There are two ways to participate, print and color your own Mentoring Max OR use our animated sticker on Instagram! To have your submission be featured in our upcoming Better Together Benefit event, your Mentoring Max must be received by an Affinity Staff member or tagged to our social media account by Friday, April 23.


Download the Mentoring Max Print Out + Instructions!



Print + Color + Cut

  1. Design your own Mentoring Max, using the template outline. Be as creative as you want!
  2. Cut out your Mentoring Max.
  3. Take a picture or video of you and Mentoring Max (at school, home, playing) – wherever you enjoy being together! 
  4. Send your picture or video to Affinity Mentoring to be featured on our Instagram. Send via:
    • Email: info@affinitymentoring.org
    • Mail: Affinity Mentoring 818 Butterworth St SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
    • Social Media: For posting on social media be sure to tag @affinity.mentoring and use the hashtags #MentoringMax and #BetterTogether (must be a public post to be shared to Affinity’s page).

Animated Instagram Sticker

  1. Take a video or photo of your favorite thing to do during mentoring or an activity that is better with other people (favorite board game, playing in the park, reading books).
  2. Upload your video or picture to your personal Instagram account as a Story or Post.
  3. Be sure to Tag @affinity.mentoring and use the hashtag #MentoringMax and #BetterTogether.
  4. Add the Animated Sticker Version by going to GIF:

Meet the Artist

Digital Artwork created by former SWCC Mentor, Pablo Castro. Pablo is a Chilean storyteller and visual artist who has written a number of film and TV scripts, and whose short stories have been published in Chile and the U.S. He now works as a freelance video animator and the director of Springboard, a translation and communication agency that helps Latin American filmmakers access opportunities abroad. See more of Pablo’s work at: castrodigitalartist.com including the animated video of Affinity!

COVID-19 Response Plan: April 2021

March 24, 2021 | [Disponible en Español abajo]

At Affinity we are ecstatic about the vaccine roll out, with many of our staff already receiving the vaccine and/or are on waiting lists, and we feel the hope that this brings to our community. HOWEVER, the most recent update from the Kent County Health Department was titled: “Kent County Health Department Warns of Increase in COVID-19 Positivity Rate: Number of cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations all increasing”, which is reflected across Michigan, the US, and the world. For reference, last April when we were in full lockdown Michigan had an average of around 1,500 new cases per day; now we are averaging well over 3,000 cases per day and the numbers are climbing. 

“It is critically important for everyone to remember that the arrival of coronavirus variants and prematurely relaxed attitudes about COVID-19, put our community in grave danger of a resurgence in cases and deaths,” said Kent County Health Department Administrative Health Officer, Dr. Adam London. “Our county has already lost at least 656 residents to this pandemic. We do not want to see anyone else lose their life, especially when we are so near to the end of this pandemic.”

The KCHD is also encouraging residents to be prepared to get vaccinated as soon as an opportunity is available. Links for pre-registration at various clinics can be found here

At this time, we want to encourage all mentors, volunteers, donors, and community members to refer back to our original COVID-19 guidelines for a refresher into the steps we are taking to keep students and families safe.



In addition to these guidelines, we want to address two sets of questions we have been receiving:

  1. INDEPENDENT OUTINGS:

    We are so grateful for and completely understand that we have mentors who want to be able to meet with their mentees in-person after an entire year apart! We never prohibit any interactions that parents/guardians initiate and supervise between mentors and mentees, but, we encourage mentors to allow parents to make these decisions based on the safety of themselves and their families, and we will intervene if any family is feeling pressured to approve or facilitate these meetings.  However, we are still not approving Affinity sponsored Independent Outings. We feel this is supported by CDC guidelines stating that it is still recommended that individuals who are not from the same household should only be spending time together not socially distanced if both individuals are fully vaccinated. If a mentor/mentee match finds themselves in this situation and want to inquire further about Independent Outings, please reach out to your Site Coordinator. We understand that there are additional guidelines for socially distanced outings outdoors, and we are going to continue asking that this be initiated by families and supervised by parents/guardians if they take place.



  2. VIRTUAL MENTORING VS IN-PERSON MENTORING NEXT YEAR:

    Individuals would validly like to know what mentoring will look like next year; unfortunately, we do not have answers yet. We are grateful that our schools are waiting to make decisions until they have the most up to date and accurate information. We do not expect to have firm and final answers about what kind of mentoring we will do next year until we are much closer to the school year beginning, but we will be prepared for all options, and we will communicate with you regularly with any information or updates that we receive. No matter what, we are prepared and have the experience under our belts to ensure that these crucial relationships continue growing. 

Thank you so much for your commitment to students and families, to keeping our community safe and healthy, and to Affinity Mentoring. We are continuously grateful for you and inspired by your enthusiasm, care, and dedication. For any questions or concerns, please contact me directly at ckiger@affinitymentoring.org, or 616-209-8435.

Sincerely, Cassandra Kiger

COVID-19 Response Plan: July 2020


Plan de Respuesta de Affinity para COVID-19: abril 2021 






24 de marzo de 2021

En Affinity estamos encantados con el lanzamiento de la vacuna, ya que muchos de nuestro personal ya están recibiendo la vacuna y/o están en listas de espera, y sentimos la esperanza que esto trae a nuestra comunidad. SIN EMBARGO, la actualización más reciente del Departamento de Salud del Condado de Kent se tituló: “El Departamento de Salud del Condado de Kent Advierte Sobre un Aumento en la Tasa de Positividad de COVID-19: Número de casos, tasa de positividad y hospitalizaciones en aumento”, lo que se refleja en Michigan, los EE.UU. , y el mundo. Como referencia, en abril pasado, cuando estábamos en el “lockdown” total, Michigan tenía un promedio de alrededor de 1.500 casos nuevos por día; ahora tenemos un promedio de más de 3.000 casos por día y los números están aumentando.

“Es de vital importancia que todos recuerden que la llegada de variantes del coronavirus y las actitudes relajadas prematuramente sobre COVID-19, ponen a nuestra comunidad en grave peligro de un resurgimiento de casos y muertes”, dijo el Dr. Adam London. “Nuestro condado ya ha perdido al menos 656 residentes a causa de esta pandemia. No queremos que nadie más pierda la vida, especialmente cuando estamos tan cerca del final de esta pandemia “. 

El DSCK también anima a los residentes a estar preparados para vacunarse tan pronto como se presente la oportunidad. Los enlaces para la preinscripción en varias clínicas se pueden encontrar aquí.

En este momento, queremos animar a todos los mentores, voluntarios, donantes y miembros de la comunidad a que consulten nuestras reglas originales de COVID-19 para recordar los pasos que estamos tomando para mantener seguros a los estudiantes y las familias.



Además de estas reglas, queremos abordar dos conjuntos de preguntas que hemos recibido:

  1. SALIDAS INDEPENDIENTES:

    Estamos muy agradecidos y entendemos completamente que tenemos mentores que quieren poder reunirse con sus mentoreados en persona después de un año entero separados. Nunca prohibimos las interacciones que los padres/mentores inicien y supervisen entre mentores y aprendices, pero animamos a los mentores a permitir que los padres tomen estas decisiones basándose en la seguridad de ellos mismos y de sus familias, e intervenimos si alguna familia se siente presionada a aprobar o facilitar estas reuniones. Sin embargo, todavía no estamos aprobando las Salidas Independientes patrocinadas por Affinity. Creemos que esto está respaldado por las reglas del CCI que establecen que aún se recomienda que las personas que no pertenecen al mismo hogar solo pasen tiempo juntas sin distanciarse socialmente si ambas personas están completamente vacunadas. Si una pareja de mentor/mentoreado se encuentra en esta situación y desea obtener más información sobre las salidas independientes, comuníquese con la coordinadora de su sitio. Entendemos que existen reglas adicionales para las salidas al aire libre socialmente distanciadas, y vamos a seguir pidiendo que esto sea iniciado por las familias y supervisado por los padres/tutores si se llevan a cabo.


  2. MENTORÍA VIRTUAL O  MENTORÍA EN PERSONA EL PRÓXIMO AÑO :

    A las personas les gustaría saber cómo será la mentoría el próximo año; lamentablemente, todavía no tenemos respuestas. Estamos agradecidos de que nuestras escuelas estén esperando para tomar decisiones hasta que tengan la información más actualizada y precisa. No esperamos tener respuestas firmes y finales sobre el tipo de mentoría que haremos el próximo año hasta que estemos mucho más cerca del comienzo del año escolar, pero estaremos preparados para todas las opciones y nos comunicaremos con usted regularmente con cualquier información o actualizaciones que recibamos. Pase lo que pase, estamos preparados y tenemos la experiencia para garantizar que estas relaciones cruciales sigan creciendo.

Muchas gracias por su compromiso con los estudiantes y las familias, para mantener nuestra comunidad segura y saludable, y por su compromiso con Affinity Mentoring. Estamos continuamente agradecidos por usted e inspirados por su entusiasmo, cuidado y dedicación. Para cualquier pregunta o inquietud, comuníquese conmigo directamente a ckiger@affinitymentoring.org, o al 616-209-8435.

Atentamente, Cassandra Kiger

Plan de Respuesta de Affinity para COVID-19: julio 2020 

Anonymous Donor Uplifts Staff

March 2021

This week our team was surprised with a generous gift from an anonymous donor who recognizes the challenges, sweat equity, and care our team puts into programming and equity based barrier reduction work. We are extremely grateful for this gift and the letter brought our team to tears. Thank you <3

“Dear Affinity Staff: I am a community member acquainted with the work of Affinity and the work that you do is impressive. I have kept up with the updates from your organization over the years, and know how big of an impact you have made in the local community. 
I know that, in general, working for a nonprofit can be both extremely rewarding, yet challenging. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be to work at a nonprofit in the midst of a pandemic. I admire the way all of you at Affinity have not only been able to pivot, but also be successful as a nonprofit during this difficult time. It is more important now than ever that nonprofits doing the work that you do continue. With school being so different this year for students, we can never fully know the impact that having a constant caring adult will have on their future.

I know each of you are very dedicated and passionate about the work that you do, which can oftentimes be under appreciated. Communities often show what is most important to them by where they put their money; I value the work that you do every day and believe it is of utmost importance. I want to take this time to say thank you; thank you for your hard work. Thank you for always being willing to learn and grow. Thank you for teaching. Thank you for all of the paperwork and emails and phone calls that no one ever sees. Thank you for the home visits, porch drop offs, and reminders. Thank you for making an impact in the lives of students and families, even though you may never see the results of that impact. This is an incredibly fierce group of people and if you can make this much of an impact in the face of a pandemic, then I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Affinity Mentoring.”

Affinity Reveals Updated Mission + Vision

January 2021

January not only represents the start of a new year, but it is also National Mentoring Month! We couldn’t be more excited to start the year with exciting news! The Affinity team determined that there was a need to revise the current mission statement to more accurately reflect our work, and add a vision statement to help clearly forecast where we believe we are going as an organization.

New Mission + Vision

  • Our mission is to facilitate equitable growth in academics, social emotional skills, and self-esteem through mutually beneficial mentoring relationships. We believe in cultivating a brave space that amplifies the voices of young agents of change in a diverse and inclusive community.
  • Our vision is to be a leading nonprofit for fostering belonging alongside young people, families, and community.

Download Image in Spanish.


Growth is a Process

We want to know who we are and be consistent enough to be recognizable, but also be open to change, listen well, and recognize when we are being moved into the next phase of ourselves as an organization. We know that Affinity, as well as our community, has been changing rapidly, and we are no longer the small, new, but beautiful organization that grew out of the missions department of Mars Hill Bible Church. We decided it was important to review our mission statement to ensure that it accurately represents what we are doing and the vision we have for Affinity in the future.

Next Steps: Community Listening Project

We recognize we cannot fulfill our mission and vision without listening to our community members. We launched a new Community Listening Survey as a step in creating a regular cycle of public feedback on our work, and giving power to the community to speak into where we will direct our resources and which projects we will prioritize. Read the Report.

Community Listening Project: Data Released

March 2021

While launching our updated mission and vision statements in January 2021 we realized that we needed to be held actively accountable to these statements by opening ourselves up to feedback, critique, and ideas in new and regular ways. We cannot fulfill our mission and vision without listening to our community members.

As we dream past these pandemic days, anticipating new challenges and opportunities, we launched a new Community Listening Survey as a step in creating a regular cycle of public feedback on our work, and giving power to the community to speak into where we will direct our resources and which projects we will prioritize. 

  • In three weeks we received nearly 100 public submissions;
  • 22% of which came directly from families with students receiving mentoring; and
  • 34% of which were from current or past mentors. 

We acknowledge and validate that simply collecting public survey data is not enough, and is regularly used to give organizations credibility while continuing with their own agendas, and/or to strip the wisdom and learned experience from community members without acknowledgement or compensation. 

Therefore, we commit to the following standards and invite you to tell us if we are not holding ourselves accountable to them:

  • To take all feedback seriously;
  • To review all feedback equitably, giving the highest regard to the ideas and opinions of those most directly impacted by our work;
  • To view all feedback and experiences as valid and true, never dismissing someone because they hold a different experience than someone else or even the majority;
  • To consistently and regularly find opportunities to adjust and direct our programming as requested by the community;
  • To regularly pair our own explanation of our work alongside the community’s evaluation of our work, including critique;
  • To work to avoid exploiting community wisdom and talent without compensation by being clear about the use of research, how it will impact the community, what we intend to do with data, and offering compensation for expertise whenever possible;
  • To never assume that we are experts in someone else’s life experience, but to allow each person to be the expert of their own experience. 

We are grateful for our community and feel honored to be able to partner alongside organizations, community members, schools, families, and students towards more equitable futures for young people. 

Community Listening Project Results
January 2021 Project Summary [English]
One Page Highlights [English]

January 2021 Project Summary [Spanish]
One Page Highlights [Spanish]

We are committed to building and maintaining a sustainable, high quality mentoring program that positively impacts our community. We value openness and transparency in our work – to see all of our annual reports, audited financial statements, and any other pertinent materials visit our Impact + Reports page.

Virtual Mentoring Makes Giving Back Possible

By Juan Mascorro-Guerrero, Mentor at SWCC

This year I’ve gotten the opportunity to mentor Byron, a student at Southwest Community Campus. Growing up as a first generation immigrant, where both my parents worked hard to support our family, meant my parents did not have much time to help me navigate school or the workforce. Fortunately, along my journey I had mentors who helped guide me to where I am today.

One of those mentors was and continues to be Adriana Almanza, former Associate Director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Grand Valley State University. She connected me with financial aid and social resources while also challenging me to pursue a masters degree. 

Fast forward to today, I am a young professional who graduated college debt free, holds a Masters Degree, and is working in a fulfilling role within Human Resources at the University of Chicago – all because I had mentors who motivated and guided me. I am now in a good place to give back to my community and thus when I heard of Affinity Mentoring I knew that through this organization I could finally support someone through mentorship just as I once was.

Although I now live in Chicago, IL I knew I still wanted to give back to the West Michigan community as this was where most of my mentors were from and holds a special place in my heart. I’ve now been meeting with my mentee Byron through Zoom for a few weeks and have gotten to provide him with some guidance while also learning from him.

One thing that I’ve slowly realized is that mentoring goes both ways, through every interaction with my mentee there is also an opportunity for me to learn: both my mentee and myself bring a wealth of knowledge that is super valuable. Every week we meet, I check in to see how he is doing, make it a priority to teach Byron a new word, spend time talking about career paths, and engage in discussions about fun outdoor activities.

I am thankful for Zoom as it has made mentoring from Chicago a possibility – I am easily able to share my screen and play games virtually. Although we aren’t together in person I feel like I am still able to successfully mentor Byron through Zoom. I appreciate Affinity Mentoring for adapting to these changing times, providing mentors with several resources to be successful virtually, and for making mentoring remotely a possibility!

New Board Members Appointed

January 05, 2021

Affinity Mentoring today announced several new appointments to its board of directors, including Marcia Boyce, Abigail Bruins, and Christine Mwangi.

Marcia BoyceMarcia received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Yale University and her Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law. Marcia practiced as a Corporate Banking and Finance attorney for over 15 years. She is licensed to practice law in the states of Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania and recently completed both General Civil and Domestic Relations Mediator training. Marcia has taken a hiatus from the practice of law to focus on her family but remains active in the community. Marcia is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and the Grand Rapids Bar Association, currently serves on the PTO Board of her daughter’s school, Ada Vista Elementary, and is the Treasurer and a member of the Greater Grand Rapids Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. In the past, Marcia served on the Fundraising Board of the Kent District Library and as Treasurer of the Board of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute. Marcia and her husband, Hayden, have two children, Christian and Morgan. Marcia enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her family.
Abigail BruinsAbigail was born and raised in Grand Rapids, and currently resides in the Baxter neighborhood. She has a background in community engagement, sales and development, and environmental chemistry. Abigail spends her days working as the Director of Business Development for local company Canopy Resources. She also owns and operates her own pet sitting business. Abigail is a graduate of Michigan State University where she received a degree in Earth Science. In her early 20s, Abigail spent time teaching middle school science, which is, in part, what drew her to Affinity Mentoring. Abigail is eager to support Affinity Mentoring in driving forward the mission to create equitable learning opportunities throughout our city.
Christine MwangiChristine is a change agent who has utilized her entrepreneurial background to establish a charitable organization that has helped educate hundreds of marginalized women on critical women’s health matters. As a global citizen who has lived, worked in and been educated in 3 continents (Africa, Europe and N.America), Christine also possesses a global lens that she skillfully uses to facilitate courageous conversations about race, privilege and culture. She lends her expertise and thought-provoking leadership to non-profits, educational institutions, foundations, and public sector organizations. Christine is the proud founder of Be a Rose, Inc., Grounded in Equity, LLC and the Pulsing Black Podcast.

A full list of board members can be found at https://affinitymentoring.org/about/the-team/.

Decolonizing Thanksgiving

By Cassandra Kiger

City of GR Proclamation of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

For many, November marks the beginning of the holiday season, and though this year will inevitably look different, we can still find unique and creative ways to celebrate Thanksgiving. Balancing thankfulness while also acknowledging our very complicated reality takes a lot of intentionality. May each of us take moments to be kind to ourselves and notice the good things that do exist around us, but also challenge ourselves to see things in a new light. 

Our community has slowly been working to more accurately tell the stories of Indigenous Peoples in Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids Public School now has a full Native American Education Program, and Mayor Rosalynn Bliss formally recognized October 12 at Indigenous People’s Day (instead of Columbus Day), a year after Governor Gretchen Whitmer did the same in the state of Michigan. 


We encourage each person to consider how you and your family and friends can make steps alongside our community to “decolonize” our Thanksgiving traditions and take time to learn a more accurate narrative. Check out these resources for suggestions: