Hispanic Heritage Month

October 2021

September 15 – October 15 is officially Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States and in Michigan, and there are so many things to celebrate in so many different ways. Check out how Affinity board and staff celebrate, and follow our Facebook Page for more opportunities to learn about the complexities and intersectionalities of the Hispanic/Latinx experience. 

"As a White woman who grew up in a predominately White, middle class community, I’m constantly deepening my understanding of my biases and working to critically examine my own participation in cultures of dominance. Raising biracial children adds an extra layer of intentionality behind the choices I make as an adult because I know I have two little sponges who are watching my every move. I want my kids to value lifelong learning, speaking two languages, and embracing all of their identities even if the rest of the world is telling them not to. My children are lighter skinned and often unknowingly “pass” as White. We talk openly about their multiple heritages, ethnicities, skin colors and cultures. They’re proud of their light brown skin and know it comes from their Papa, that their beautiful dark brown eyes are from their Abuelita, and of course their freckles are from me. I want to make sure they are able to fully embrace their often complex and beautiful identities. We stock our home with books that are written by Latinos and feature Latinx characters; we support local Latinx restaurants (they can’t get enough of the arroz from Lindo Mexico and tacos from El Cunado), and of course attend the annual Hispanic Festival that kicks off the month. While as a family we celebrate their Latinx culture and heritage every day, Hispanic Heritage Month is a small window of time each year where the entire nation celebrates the rich beauty, contributions, and cultures of the Latinx communities. Our hope is that one day we won’t need a designated month because the contributions of Latinx communities will be celebrated, honored, and remembered every day."


Rachel Humphreys
Development and Communications Director of Affinity Mentoring

"To me, Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration and honor to immigrants from Latin America. This month I want to celebrate my parents who had the courage to leave their lives in Mexico City to come to the United States in 1992. As a first generation daughter, I have seen the sacrifices that my parents made as they worked for a better future for me and my sisters. This meant having multiple jobs as a cook, a cleaner, a migrant worker, a factory worker, and selling at flea markets. My parents have made the impossible possible as they learned how to navigate in a country with oppressive systems as native Spanish speakers all while raising their daughters in a new country. Para mis padres, llegaron sin nada y me lo dieron todo.

During this month I am extra grateful for being a daughter of hard working immigrant parents. My brown skin, dark eyes, and Mexican features that I was once ashamed of, I have learned as an adult to embrace it even more. I am proud of all that I am as it’s a representation of my roots, culture, and parents. Without the sacrifices that my parents made I wouldn't have the opportunities that are available to me today as a US citizen."


Angela Reyna
Lee MS Site Coordinator

"Being part of Affinity has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. I have learned that when I speak about justice, equality, and inclusion, I must also continuously question my personal and professional decisions made to ensure I am putting my money where my mouth is. That is not always easy to do. How can I work towards equity for all if I am not also ensuring I am spending money at BIPOC businesses? So often it is easy, cost effective and convenient to utilize the businesses that have the largest reach and the most convenient options. When planning my daughter’s 4th birthday, I asked her what she wanted for food. She immediately shouted “tacos!” I decided to reach out to a local Latinx restaurant. Although it took more effort than say, opening my phone and ordering catering on Chipotle’s website, I kept reminding myself that I needed to practice conscious shopping and reinvest in my community.

It took some back and forth on my part. Since over the phone wasn’t working, I drove out there and put my order in, thankful that they recognized me from my days in the past of going there every week when I worked near them (that community connection always feels nice when you support local, small places). Not only did it cost less than the chain, but we also received so much extra food, and I walked away with the knowledge that the money I had spent was helping my community by going back into the community.

So, this Hispanic Heritage month, I am going to continue to reflect and work to ensure that my intentions, my actions, my dollars spent, match my values and beliefs. Because it is easy to espouse equity, but until we begin to put words to actions, we won’t see the change we so desperately need.""


Lauren Enos
MSW Intern

"Mi nombre es Mónica soy mexicana nací en el pueblo de Yuriria Guanajuato, para mí y mi familia es muy importante celebrar nuestra cultura y preservar nuestras tradiciones. En mi casa celebramos todos los días nuestra herencia hispana, es algo que es parte de nuestra identidad. Es muy común comer platillos tradicionales, escuchar música mexicana y celebrar nuestro día festivo. Con orgullo y respeto a nuestros antepasados vestimos nuestra ropa típica. También nos gusta participar en eventos en los cuales se celebra nuestra cultura por ejemplo el Festival Hispano que se celebra en el downtown de Grand Rapids. El festival mexicana y el más reciente el festival de cambio. En estas semanas nos gusta participar en el Arte Prize y apoyar a artistas locales hispanos. En mi familia es un orgullo ser hispanos y nos gusta compartir las bellezas de nuestra cultura con los demás y a la misma vez aprender de otras culturas."

"My name is Monica; I am Mexican; I was born in Yuriria Guanajuato, Mexico. For my family and me, it is essential to celebrate our culture and preserve our traditions. In my house, we celebrate every day our Hispanic heritage is something that is part of our identity. It is common to eat traditional dishes, listen to Mexican music and celebrate our holiday. With pride and respect for our ancestors, we wear our typical clothes. We also like to participate in events in which our culture is celebrated, for example, the Hispanic Festival held in downtown Grand Rapids. The Mexican festival and the most recent celebration of change. These weeks we like to participate in the Arte Prize and support local Hispanic artists. In my family, it is a pride to be Hispanic, and we like to share the beauties of our culture with others and at the same time learn from other cultures."


Monica Zavala
SWCC Site Coordinator

"My first true experiences understanding Latinx/Hispanic heritage began as I worked in the Youth Services and Language Services departments of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan. Though I had previously lived for extended periods of time in both Spain and El Salvador, through the HCWM I experienced being immersed in a beautiful subculture of Grand Rapids that I hadn't fully appreciated or paid attention to previously, to my own chagrin. These were the first times I began to truly see my own culture and life experience within its greater context in the US, and to begin appreciating our complexities and variations, as well as my own privilege as a white person. I will forever be grateful for the times Latinx/Hispanic individuals have unnecessarily but openly invited me into their lives, called me out when I caused pain or ignored my privilege, taught me, gave me space to explore and learn, and at times even allow me space into gorgeous celebrations of Latinx/Hispanic culture. Even as an interpreter and translator, as someone who has spent most of their career working in primarily Latinx/Hispanic settings and organizations, I work to never take these invitations for granted, but to cherish them and recognize the vulnerability that someone is offering me. September 15 to October 15 each year is a reminder to myself to check in; how am I using my privilege to make space for others and to advance equity? Where do I still have blind spots that I need to pay attention to? How can I celebrate and cherish such complex and varied and rich cultures without appropriating them? How can I do my job(s) in a way that celebrates the Hispanic/Latinx individuals around me this month, and every month?"


Cassandra Kiger
Executive Director

"I come from a family who is very proud of being Hispanic as a child we did not openly celebrate Hispanic/Latinx month because we felt very honored to be Hispanic every day. In my family, we celebrate anything from the smallest accomplishments to the big ones. The number one thing that we are most proud of is family, we treasure the moments spent together more than anything which is why we have a rule in my home that Sunday is set aside for church and family dinner gatherings. This is the number one thing that as a mother I want to pass down to my own boys as Hispanic men, you care for your family and treasure, the time spent together. Lastly, you always celebrate with amazing FOOD!"


Rocio Moreno
Program Director and Burton Site Coordinator

"This month is important because my family is Dominican and well that is our culture and we love to embrace it and celebrate it. My son was born here and I love to read books with him about DR and Latino heritage overall. Our favorite book to read is called Islandborn by Junot Diaz. Hispanic Heritage celebration is pretty much everyday for us, because it is who we are. We eat Dominican food 80% of the time at home or from a local restaurants such as Carniceria Latina, Rincon Criollo or Sabor Latino. I am very proud of my roots and the fact that I am able to speak two languages very fluently. Also, that I have a home away from home in the Dominican Republic."


Jatnna Abreu
Board Member and SWCC Mentor

Why is Social Emotional Learning Important?

October 4, 2021 | By Cassandra Kiger, Executive Director

Social Emotional Learning and Middle School In our last newsletter we introduced how critical Social Emotional Learning is to a healthy life, including in academics, and why we are putting so much focus into SEL skills during mentoring. As we work to ensure that our programming has successful short-term and long-term outcomes for students and families, and that we continue to use relevant research to guide our programming, we have spent significant time researching what different age groups might need in mentoring, including middle schoolers, like those at our Burton and Godfrey-Lee Middle School Sites


Does anyone look back at middle school and remember a time of certainty and ease?
These are foundational years that encompass social and emotional challenges, changes in self-esteem, changing relationships with peers and caregivers, and generally a lot of hormones. Academically, middle school shows some of the highest declines in student outcomes, especially students of color and those from low-income households, who face extra challenges. Some of these challenges are due to systemic issues that are embedded into our white, western view of school systems (this is not focused on a specific school system, but the overall school system). Many students report that they do not even feel like they “fit” in the schools they attend, as they might not feel a sense of belonging, purpose, and empowerment in the educational system. We can impact these realities through ensuring mentoring is a space of belonging, safety, and acceptance; putting student voice and input at the forefront of our work and decisions; and focusing our efforts on supporting student growth in Social Emotional Learning, Leadership Skills, and Self-Esteem.


We do not take our research lightly.  We are making renewed efforts to do our own organizational and individual work to make sure that we do not perpetuate students feeling like they “don’t fit” when they come to mentoring, whether that be because of their race or ethnicity, their country of origin, their gender identity or sexual orientation, if they identify as differently-abled, or for any other reason they may feel “different”. Research consistently shows us that when students feel that they are fully accepted for who they are, that they have safe adults around them that care for them, accept them wholly, and they can go to for support and help, they succeed in many other areas of life, including academics.
Again, all of this we are pairing closely with data, which is why we are preparing to administer the Development Assets Profile survey to all of our mentees grades 4-8 (with guardian permission). This assessment is validated and reliable through the Search Institute, and grows out of years of research with millions of young people and is based on Search Institute’s framework of Developmental Assets. It will allow us to:

  • Discover the social-emotional strengths and supports that our mentees already have;
  • Listen to the perspectives of mentees;
  • See our work in the context of mentee’s own strengths as well as the supports they have (or don’t have) in their families, schools, organizations, and community; and
  • Gain a road map to guide us in proactive and focused planning to increase positive outcomes.

We will continue to make our work transparent and share data in appropriate ways so that you can see the “why” behind the “how” at Affinity Mentoring, and can partner alongside us in this important work. Look out in the coming year for opportunities for mentors and community members to learn alongside our team as we continue to grow. 

Bibliography:

Fite, P., Frazer, A., DiPierro, M., & Abel, M. (2019). Youth Perceptions of What Is Helpful during the Middle School Transition and Correlates of Transition Difficulty. Children & Schools, 41(1), 55–64. https://doi-org.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/10.1093/cs/cdy029

Hughes, J. N., Im, M., Kwok, O., Cham, H., & West, S. G. (2015). Latino Students’ Transition to Middle School: Role of Bilingual Education and School Ethnic Context. Journal of Research on Adolescence (Wiley-Blackwell), 25(3), 443–458. https://doi-org.ezproxy.gvsu.edu/10.1111/jora.12142

Youth-Nex, and Youth-Nex. “What Do You Know About Young Adolescent Development?” Youth, 15 Sept. 2020, youthnexblog.curry.virginia.edu/?p=1963.

YOUTH VOICE & SCHOOL CLIMATE & CULTURE IN THE MIDDLE GRADES. Remaking Middle School, education.virginia.edu/sites/default/files/files/Youth_Nex_files/4b.%20Climate%20&%20Culture_Rationale%20Statement.pdf.

BCBSM Foundation Grant

September 1, 2021

Affinity Mentoring is THRILLED to announce that we have received a two-year research grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan. It might seem strange that a non-profit offering mentoring services would receive a research grant from a foundation focused on physical health and safety, but Social Determinants of Health have actually shown us that our short and long term health and ability to thrive, even how long we live, are greatly affected by many factors, such as our economic stability, education, and important relationships! For example, did you know that:

  • Social Emotional Learning (SEL) competence shows benefits such as: improved test scores, grades, attendance, positive social behaviors, and relationships with peers and adults (Durlak et al., 2011; Farrington et al., 2012; Sklad et al., 2012)
  • SEL has been found to: improve achievement, increase attitudes toward school, and reduce depression and stress (Durlak et al., 2011)
  • Kindergartners stronger in SEL are more likely to: graduate high school, earn a college degree, and obtain stable employment in young adulthood (Jones, Greenberg & Crowley, 2015)

This is why we are so focused on our key areas of growth at Affinity Mentoring: Social Emotional Learning, Self Esteem, Leadership Development, and Academics; because they all impact each other! Have you ever tried to focus on an important project or difficult task while stressed about an important relationship, or thinking about another hard task you have to complete, or while being afraid that you might fail, or while keeping silent even though you have important information to share with others? How easy is it to complete that project or task? 
Students are exactly the same. When they are anxious, worried, have low self-esteem, are afraid to speak up, and do not feel as if they have safe relationships with people they can talk to, it is significantly harder for them to focus in school and on academics, and there can be short and long term consequences.

THIS is why we love mentoring; THIS is why it matters so incredibly much; THIS is why an organization like the BCBS Foundation of Michigan recognizes the long term positive impact that mentoring can have on student health. Visit our website to learn how you can be a part of something with incredible impact and potential in the lives of students and families. 

Affinity Announces New Board Members

August 25, 2021

Affinity Mentoring today announced several new appointments to its board of directors, including Dr. Andrea Blue and Fuad Hasanovic.

Joined: August 2021
DR. ANDREA BLUE | Blue Pathways

Dr. Blue hails from Baldwin; MI. Dr. Blue is a mentor, personal and business coach, entrepreneur, author, and educator. Her education includes a Doctorate of Management and Organizational Development and Change in Higher Education Organizations; Colorado Technical University; 2 Masters Degrees; Ferris State University in Business Administration and Career Technical Education with a focus on management, business, and education. Dr. Blue is the Founder and CEO of B & J Enterprises, LLC where Blue Pathways Educational Mentorship Services and Paramount Recruitment Agency were birthed. Her focus is on corporations, business owners, and individuals that operate a business that works with underprivileged and underrepresented populations both locally and globally. Andrea brings 15 plus years of business, management, and education experience along with DISC Certification Training. She is intentional with our corporations, business owners, and individual clients to help transform lives through mindset mentorship and coaching strategies.

Joined: August 2021
FUAD HASANOVIC | Kamps Pallets

Fuad is the Brand Manager at Kamps Pallets, one of the nation's largest pallet recycling and manufacturing companies. He manages and supports the company-wide branding and communications strategy at Kamps. Fuad is active in his community, and in the past has served on the Emerging Leaders Advisory Council for the Special Olympics Michigan chapter. Moving to the United States as a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina, he has a unique perspective on the challenges faced by those growing up with English as a second-language and overcoming cultural barriers. Fuad earned a bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing from Davenport University; along with an MBA with a specialization in Strategic Management. In his spare time, he likes to read, watch basketball with his dog, Mia, and travel with his wife, Kelci.

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

COVID-19 Response Plan: August 2021

August 13, 2021 | [Disponible en Español abajo]

We are absolutely thrilled to confirm that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, all students as well as our Affinity staff members will be allowed to go into all of our school sites this fall to conduct mentoring! At this point, we are still planning to run a hybrid model of mentoring, with Site Coordinators supporting students in the mentor centers to log onto Zoom and virtually meet with their mentors. This is significantly easier than having students, mentors, and Site Coordinators all in different locations, and it gives us further options to provide materials and resources for students to use during mentoring, and to troubleshoot any concerns. 

We have heard that there is yet a chance that mentors will be allowed in schools at some point this year, however, this is certainly not finalized, and we will continue to treat COVID as a very real threat in our community and follow all rules put in place by the school districts and the Kent County Health Department. We are as ready to put COVID behind us as you are, however, we also want to be wise and ensure we are an excellent support to the community, not a burden. Within Kent County cases continue to rapidly rise, especially with the new variant(s), which is significantly more contagious for children. We trust our local health department and schools to make wise, data-driven decisions based on what is best for students and families. 

We recognize that there are no county or state wide mandates to be vaccinated against COVID-19, however, we want each mentor to be able to think ahead and fully recognize all possibilities if we are allowed to have mentors in the schools again. 

  • Firstly, as of now, there are no requirements for individuals entering into our local GRPS and GLPS schools to be vaccinated, however, this is subject to change; we will follow any rules that the school puts forth, including requiring proof of vaccination if that were to be their decision. 
  • Secondly, we would like to remind all mentors and partners that the vaccine is only available for individuals over the age of 12, and that is only recently. Therefore, if you mentor in an elementary school, nearly NONE of the students in the building will even be able to be vaccinated, and VERY FEW students will be vaccinated even in the upper elementary and middle schools. Again, we encourage each person to consider their own risk and safety and consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible. 

We appreciate each and every student, parent, teacher, administrator, mentor, staff member, and partner and all of your dedication and care to ensuring that we can continue to support students and their families through these difficult times while keeping everyone safe!

Sincerely,

Cassandra Kiger


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





13 de agosto de 2021

¡Estamos absolutamente encantados de confirmar que, salvo circunstancias imprevistas, todos los estudiantes, así como los miembros del personal de Affinity, podrán entrar en todas nuestras escuelas este otoño para realizar la mentoría! En este momento, todavía estamos planeando ejecutar un modelo híbrido de mentoría, con las Coordinadoras del Sitio apoyando a los estudiantes en los centros de mentoría para que inicien sesión en Zoom y se reúnan virtualmente con sus mentores. Esto es significativamente más fácil que tener estudiantes, mentores y Coordinadores de Sitio en diferentes ubicaciones, y nos brinda más opciones para proporcionar materiales y recursos para que los estudiantes los utilicen durante la mentoría y para solucionar cualquier problema.

Hemos escuchado que todavía existe la posibilidad de que se permitan mentores a entrar en las escuelas en algún momento este año, sin embargo, esto por supuesto no está finalizado, y continuaremos tratando a COVID como una amenaza muy real en nuestra comunidad y seguiremos todas las reglas establecida e implementadas por los distritos escolares y el Departamento de Salud del Condado de Kent. Estamos tan dispuestos a dejar atrás a COVID como usted, sin embargo, también queremos ser sabios y asegurarnos de ser un excelente apoyo para la comunidad, no una carga. Dentro del Condado de Kent, los casos continúan aumentando rápidamente, especialmente con la nueva variante, que es significativamente más contagiosa para los niños. Confiamos en nuestro departamento de salud local y en las escuelas para tomar decisiones sabias basadas en datos y en lo que es mejor para los estudiantes y las familias.

Reconocemos que no existen mandatos estatales o del condado para vacunarse contra COVID-19, sin embargo, queremos que cada mentor pueda pensar en el futuro y reconocer plenamente todas las posibilidades si se nos permite tener mentores en las escuelas nuevamente.

  • Primero, a partir de ahora, no existen requisitos para que las personas que ingresan a nuestras escuelas locales de GRPS y GLPS se vacunen; sin embargo, esto está sujeto a cambios; seguiremos todas las reglas que establezca la escuela, incluida la exigencia de prueba de vacunación si esa fuera su decisión.
  • Segundo, nos gustaría recordar a todos los mentores y socios que la vacuna sólo está disponible para personas mayores de 12 años, y eso solo decidieron recientemente. Por lo tanto, si usted es mentor en una escuela primaria, casi NINGUNO de los estudiantes en el edificio podrá vacunarse, y MUY POCOS estudiantes serán vacunados incluso en las escuelas secundarias. Nuevamente, animamos a cada persona a considerar su propio riesgo y seguridad y considerar vacunarse lo antes posible.

¡Apreciamos a todos y cada uno de los estudiantes, padres, maestros, administradores, mentores, miembros del personal y socios y toda su dedicación y cuidado para asegurar que podamos continuar apoyando a los estudiantes y sus familias en estos tiempos difíciles mientras mantenemos a todos seguros!

Atentamente,

Cassandra Kiger

Annual Process for Data and Evaluation

July 2021

Revising Data Collection

Based on the data from the 2020-2021 Community Listening Project we have included accurate and varied data as a key factor in our decision making processes in our 2021-2023 Strategic Plan. As we have taken the past year to confirm and refine what this new data process will be we have considered:

  • Including and highlighting student voices and needs
  • Including and highlighting  community/partner voices and needs
  • Having accurate longitudinal and year-to-year comparative data
  • Including quantitative and qualitative data
  • Ensuring that we are studying data points that we have impact over and can use to improve our programming
  • Ensuring that we are supplementing our school partners and their incredible work, not overlapping it


Annual Data Collection and Presentation Process

With this in mind, we are thrilled to present to you our new, yearly data collection and presentation process that will be entirely in effect beginning this 2021-2022 mentoring year. The data from each of these will strictly follow all rules and laws around confidentiality, including FERPA and HIPAA laws, but will be made appropriately public on our website under our Reports page:

FALL

  • Developmental Assets ProfilePre-programming assessment administered to mentees 4th-8th grade focusing on beneficial relationships and Social Emotional Learning.
  • Annual Report: Previous year programming and financial data.

WINTER

  • Community Listening Project: Community feedback on whether our work is needed and desired in the community and how best to accomplish it .

SPRING

  • Mentoring Feedback Survey: Administered to ALL mentees, mentors, teachers, and parents/guardians who participate in Affinity Mentoring (we administered a partial survey for the 2020-2021 school year as a trial).
  • Developmental Assets ProfilePost-programming assessment administered to mentees 4th-8th grade focusing on beneficial relationships and Social Emotional Learning
  • Middle School Mentoring Steering Committee Survey: Administered to all steering committee participants focusing on using their voice, leadership development, and follow through.

We are grateful to participate in a community that understands the value of excellent qualitative and quantitative data, and thrilled to have new ways of listening directly to program participants and giving them a louder voice to help make Affinity Mentoring whatever it is they need it to be. Please do not hesitate to reach out to ckiger@affinitymentoring.org with any follow up questions, comments, or ideas.

Staff Promotions

July 2021

Angela Reyna (L) and Rocio Moreno (R)

We’re pleased to announce that our two longest standing team members, Angela Reyna and Rocio Moreno, have been promoted to new positions starting July 1!

Angela has served as the Mentoring Program Assistant the past 3 years and she will now be the new Godfrey-Lee Middle School Site Coordinator.

Rocio has been with Affinity for more than 4 years, her most recent position being Burton Elementary and Middle School Site Coordinator. This year she is transitioning into the newly developed Program Director role! 

We’re pleased to be building opportunities for upward mobility and career pathways for our amazing team members. Please congratulate them and be patient as they transition into their new roles!

View full team bios and roles here.

Affinity Launches New Middle School Mentoring Steering Committee

June 2021

MEETING A COMMUNITY NEED
In 2020 Jim Jensen, Principal at Godfrey-Lee Public Schools (GLPS) Middle School, reached out to Affinity Mentoring and asked if we would begin a mentoring programming for GLPS middle school students, to be an additional piece of support for students as they navigate the difficult transition years between elementary school and high school. (See our letter of support from Jim Jensen.)

Additionally, our Community Listening Project (page 3) revealed that community members believe that expanding our mentoring program with our current mentoring partners, and especially expanding middle school mentoring, should be our highest priorities. 

With this push in mind, we did some additional research that aligned strongly with feedback from the community. We found that, as of 10/12/20, 34% of Michigan households with children reported feeling nervous, anxious, and on edge, while 22% reported feeling down, depressed, or hopeless; that COVID-19 affects both mental and physical health, with communities of color facing the highest concerns (3); and BIPOC individuals are at the highest risk for the “loneliness epidemic”, with isolation shown to be up to “twice as harmful to physical and mental health as obesity.” (2) Additionally, poor literacy is linked to long-term negative health outcomes (1), while Middle School has high rates of loss in academic success and increased fail rates (4), and students of color have additional concerns and stigmas to face during this transition  (5). (See our full bibliography.) Our research confirmed what Principal Jensen and the community were telling us; middle schoolers need mentoring support! 

LAUNCHING THE STEERING COMMITTEE
With this confirmation to move forward with growing mentoring in the GLPS Middle School, we wanted to proceed with intentionality. After taking the time in 2020 to carefully and thoughtfully consider not only what our work is, but how we do it, we firmly stand behind beliefs that “youth are already leaders and community members, but need equitable access and platforms to use their voice”, and that, “[w]e believe in cultivating a brave space that amplifies the voices of young agents of change in a diverse and inclusive community”. Rooted in these beliefs, two staff members (Angela Reyna and Holly Hetherington) submitted a project to the Steelcase Social Innovation Fellowship 2020 to give key stakeholders the ability to help us build this program. (Check out their Video Pitch!) They were awarded the fellowship and have spent the past three months facilitating and building the Middle School Mentoring Steering Committee, whom we are thrilled and proud to introduce to you today:

COMMITTEE MEMBERS 

Year Joined: Summer 2021

LAUREN ENOS | Affinity MSW Intern
Lauren works at Community Living Services as a Self Determination Coordinator, working with adults with developmental disabilities and their supports coordinators. This year she is serving as the MSW Intern for Affinity Mentoring where she supports the work of the Executive Director, Cassandra Kiger. She remembers the difficulties of being a middle school student and transitioning into adulthood and wanted to join the steering committee because she recognizes the positive impact that this type of program can have on students.

"Middle schoolers are on the verge of something brand new. It can be an exciting time; they are on the precipice of transitioning to young adulthood, yet still so full of wonder and imagination. Middle schoolers are incredibly funny, exciting, creative and silly, but are also ready for that next step and they deserve that respect."


Year Joined: Spring 2021

JACKLYN HERNANDEZ | GLPS Parent, School Board Trustee
Jacklyn is parent of middle schoolers at Lee Middle School, is president of the PTO, and she serves as a School Board Trustee for Godfrey-Lee Public Schools.

"I want to make sure that we give voice to what parents and students want and need. I hope that we are successful in creating relationships through mentoring that will have and create lasting impact on our students and community."


Year Joined: Spring 2021

HOLLY HETHERINGTON | Affinity Staff Facilitator
Holly is the Office Coordinator for Affinity Mentoring and is one of the facilitators of this committee. This past year she also began mentoring through Affinity. Holly is currently seeking a Master’s in Social Innovation at GVSU. In her free time she loves to play soccer, eat delicious food, and kayak.

"I want students' voices to shape the work we do. Their leadership will make the mentoring program at the middle school so much more impactful."

No photo available.
Year Joined: Spring 2021



ISABEL LANDERO | GLPS Student
Isabel is a 9th grade student at Lee High School. She enjoys playing volleyball, soccer, video games, and watching a lot of twitch streams.

"I really liked the steering committee it was full of hard working smart people who want to help people!"




Year Joined: Spring 2021


ALEJANDRA MEZA | GLPS Alumna
Alejandra graduated from Lee High School and currently attends Grand Rapids Community College. She serves as the Family Support Services Manage at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and volunteers as an Affinity mentor at Southwest Community Campus (SWCC).

"I’ve first hand seen the benefit of being a mentor and know I would have benefitted from one if I had the opportunity so I support bringing mentoring opportunities into Godfrey Lee Middle School."


Year Joined: Spring 2021


KIM PLUM | GLPS Teacher
Kim teaches 6th grade reading at Lee Middle School. She has been teaching at Lee MS/HS since 1999 in various teaching positions.

"I joined this steering committee because a student I admire asked me to be a part of it - what better reason is there? I didn't know anything about Affinity Mentoring before this, but am looking forward to see where it goes and how it impacts our students at LMS!"


Year Joined: Spring 2021

ANGELA REYNA | Affinity Staff Facilitator and GLPS Alumna
Angela is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s in Social Work at Grand Valley State University. Angela graduated from Lee High School graduated from in 2013 and is also the Lee middle school girls soccer coach. Angela was one of the first mentor matches for the mentoring program as a student at Burton Elementary. Through first-hand experience, she understands the positive impact that a mentor can have on youth experiencing poverty. During her free time, she enjoys playing soccer and going on adventures with her youngest sister, Sophia.

"Being a part of the steering committee team is very exciting since I will be able to work alongside middle school students, teachers, community members, and mentors to build a mentoring program that will work for LMS. The steering committee allows me to listen and understand what middle schoolers need in a mentoring program and it lets us all dream and be creative of how the mentoring program will look like."


Year Joined: Spring 2021


JACKEE THOMPSON | GLPS Community Partner
Jackee serves as the KSSN Community School Coordinator at Godfrey-Lee Middle School. She has worked in the GLPS district for the past two years and loves what she does. Currently, Jackee attends Spring Arbor University where she is pursuing a Master of Education with a focus on Trauma and Resiliency.

"I want to join the steering committee because I want to ensure that Affinity Mentoring is Successful at Lee Middle School, and students get the opportunity to build partnerships and friendships with mentors in our community."

No photo available.
Year Joined: Spring 2021




DULCE VELASQUEZ | GLPS Student
Dulce is a 7th grade student at Lee Middle School. She enjoys drawing and trying new crafts with her little brother. She joined the steering committee based on recommendations and encouragement from her teachers and Principal Jensen.

"The steering committee was interesting, it was my first time hearing about mentoring. It will be helpful for middle schoolers at Lee."




Year Joined: Spring 2021

ADRIANA ZAMORA | GLPS Student
Adriana is a 7th grade student at Lee Middle School. She enjoys reading and playing softball. Her favorite part of the committee was being able to hear other's ideas and learn more about them.

"Students will be able to have a distraction from school and have the opportunity to talk about all sorts of things with their mentor."

KEY FACTORS TO HIGHLIGHT:

  • This committee includes GLPS Middle School students, teachers, parents of students, and school partners
  • Students provide direct feedback on what they need and want to  want to successfully engage mentoring and encourage their peers to engage; teachers give feedback on how we can reduce their workload and be a support in and outside of the classroom; parents give feedback on how to successfully communicate and ensure guardians are a part of this mentoring team; and other community partners keep us from working in isolation and/or doubling up services unnecessarily
  • In an effort to avoid extracting knowledge and ideas without compensation, all non-staff participants in the committee for the 21-22 fiscal year will receive an honorarium
  • The committee is facilitated by Affinity team members, Holly Hetherington and Angela Reyna, who provide structure, resources, and advocate for the committee goals and needs
  • This committee is NOT about tokenism; we present these individuals to you in the same format that we do staff and board members, and interns, because we believe that their input is equally important, and we have incorporated an honorarium and budget for this committee to keep us accountable
  • This committee is NOT temporary. We cannot predict whether it will always function in the same way or in the same space, but this is simply one more way that we will innovatively involve students, parents, and partners more fully in our work (see our 2021-2023 Strategic plan for more details)

To learn more about this committee or to get involved contact Holly Hetherington at hhetherington@affinitymentoring.org.

New Board Members Appointed

June 24, 2021

Affinity Mentoring today announced several new appointments to its board of directors, including Malaina Weldy and Frank Acosta.

Frank AcostaFrank Acosta | Independent Bank

Frank is a dedicated and driven young marketing professional focused on making a difference in the community. He currently serves as the Digital Marketing Manager for Independent Bank.

When he’s not in the office, you can likely find him outdoors or spending quality time with his family and friends. Frank has volunteered through Affinity Mentoring at SWCC in Grand Rapids for 2 years and is excited to give back to the organization through board service. Frank also serves on the board of directors for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Grand Rapids. He is Vice-Chair of the Marketing Committee for the Michigan Bankers Association and a Planning & Strategy Committee member for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County.

He earned an Associates in Science and Arts Degree from Muskegon Community College and a Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing Degree from Davenport University.


Malaina WeldyMalaina Weldy | Warner Norcross + Judd LLP

Malaina received her Bachelor of Arts in Business from Goshen College and her Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame. She is currently an attorney in the business practice group at Warner Norcross + Judd LLP and focuses her practice on corporate governance, formation, mergers and acquisitions, and commercial financing. She also assists with trademark licensing and domain name dispute resolution. Malaina grew up in northern Indiana and has loved getting to explore Grand Rapids and call it home. Malaina volunteers with her church and enjoys playing soccer, reading, and walking her rescue dog, Vinnie.


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

100 Days, 100 Mentors

Each year we have over 100 students on our waiting list, asking for mentors across our four sites.

We need your help.

In the next 100 days, our goals are to:

Will you join us?

Become a Mentor Match Sponsor. Make a small, monthly contribution to Affinity. Your gift will not only help students academically, but it’ll also give them the social and emotional support they need to work towards a positive future.

Become a Mentor. Sign up today to mentor one student for one hour week starting this fall and ask a friend to mentor too! [Read how we’ve transitioned mentoring to be virtual in our COVID-19 Response Plan]

Share our campaign on social media with the hashtag #100days100mentors tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.