2022 DEI Training Series

February 7, 2022

Affinity Mentoring, with support from the Steelcase Foundation, has released its 2022 lineup for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Training. All current mentors, partners, and team members may participate.

This training series focuses on Anti-Racism and will include 101, 201, and 301 levels. We will allow up to 35 individuals to participate in person on a first come first serve basis. Individuals will also be able to choose to participate virtually, with a cap at 50 total individuals both in-person and online.

DEI 101: Anti-Racism
Date: 2/23 6-8pm
Location: Goei Center

Meet the Speakers
– Vanessa Jimenez; Founder/CEO of Mezcla Mosaic Collaborative
– Marlene Kowalski-Braun; GVSU Associate VP for Enrollment Development Deputy Inclusion and Equity Officer

DEI 201: Anti-Racism
Date: 3/29 6-8pm
Location: Goei Center

Meet the Speaker
– Christine Mwangi;
 CEO and Founder of Grounded In Equity, President and CEO of Be A Rose, member of the Affinity Mentoring Board of Directors, and KDL Director of Fund Development.

*This training is a 201 training; we highly recommend that if you have never attended any professional, intentional anti-racism training that you first attend the 101 training offered on 2/23 before attending this 201 training.

DEI 301: Anti-Racism
Date: 4/27 6-8pm
Location: Goei Center

This is a hyper-local panel focused on anti-racism in education and mentoring; we highly recommend that if you have never attended any professional, intentional anti-racism training that you first attend the 101 training offered on 2/23.

Meet the Panelists
Rafael Castanon; Health Net of West Michigan (and AM mentor),
– Alex Kuiper; Godfrey-Lee Public Schools,
– Kyle Lim; Urban Core Collective,
– Brandy Lovelady Mitchell; Kent ISD’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
– Erika VanDyke; Urban Core Collective (and an AM mentor).


Affinity’s Glossary of Key Terms

November 2021 | By Rachel Humphreys

As a team we have compiled a list of commonly used terms in English and Spanish that are integral to our work. The document, Affinity’s Glossary of Key Terms, serves as a guide for Affinity staff members, board members, mentors, families, and community partners to create a shared understanding of Affinity’s language that’s central to our work and fulfilling our mission. This is in no way a comprehensive nor complete list, but a starting point for ongoing conversations around diversity, equity, inclusion and how it supports Affinity Mentoring.

Please note, this is a living document and will be updated frequently with new/updated terms.

City Commission Names Racism a Public Health Crisis: What Does Mentoring Have to Do With It?

November 2021 | By Cassandra Kiger

On 9/28, the Grand Rapids City Commission and Mayor Bliss approved the resolution to name Racism as a Public Health Crisis in the City of Grand Rapids. Some may be asking, ‘Why should I care about this?’, and especially, ‘Why does Affinity Mentoring care about this?’. Great question; we are actually one small part of reducing the risk that racism can have on the health of students and families in our community!
If you have not yet seen it you can read the full resolution here. Or, here are a few key highlights that pertain to our work at Affinity:

  • “While a resolution is not the solution itself, it can serve as public acknowledgment of racism as a core problem impacting health and support citywide efforts to address this problem.”
  • This was widely supported throughout the city, including from health organizations like Spectrum Health
  • In the resolution it declares that “Black, Indigenous and people of color face economic injustice, social deprivation and health inequities as a result of systemic racism”
  • “[E]ducational attainment” is specifically named as a key health area that is impacted by systemic racism, supported by statistics such as:
    • In Grand Rapids, 22% of Black and 43% of Latino residents 25 or older have less than high school education attainment, as compared to 6% of white residents. (Policy Link Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, 2017)
    • Latinos are 16% of the population in Grand Rapids but account for 43% of residents aged 25 and up that don’t have a high school diploma. (Policy Link Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, 2017)
    • In Grand Rapids, 13% of Latino and 13% of Black residents 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher, as compared to 44% of white residents (Policy Link Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, 2017); and
    • Across all Kent County schools, 19.4% of Black and 21.2% of Latino middle school students reported not going to school because they did not feel safe at school or on their way to or from school compared to 8.7% of white middle school students (Kent County Community Health Needs Assessment, 2020)

In passing the resolution, the City Commission declared: “The City acknowledges racism as a public health crisis and supports policies and opportunities to dismantle structural racism and achieve health and social equity”. Most importantly, they “urge local organizations, businesses, units of government and individuals to use their influence to ‘dismantle racism and apply a public health framework to those efforts.'”

We recently shared with you a blog highlighting the BCBS Foundation of Michigan Research Grant that we were awarded. We took the time to show how, based on Social Determinants of Health like Education and Social & Community Relationships, mentoring can have both short and long term impacts on health. As challenged and directed by our City Commission and the GR Office of Equity and Engagement, and with the support of our Board of Directors, we are committed to doing our work in a way that promotes short and long term health of students and families in our community by addressing Social Determinants of Health, and reducing and dismantling racism in our work. 

We hope that you consider joining us as we learn, grow, and challenge ourselves to do this work well so that students and families can thrive. Stay tuned for more information about ways we can learn together in the coming months. 

6 Ways to Honor Indigenous Peoples During Thanksgiving

November 2021 | By Cassandra Kiger, Affinity Mentoring and Sarah Brant, New Mexico Community Capital

At Affinity we are learning with you, and we work to sit at the feet of experts on different topics. This year, we wanted to learn more about the Thanksgiving holiday and season from a local Native expert and partner, Sarah Brant of the Anishinaabe Aki people, our local Community Outreach Coordinator for New Mexico Community Capital.

Sarah explained to us, “The fourth Thursday in November is also known as the National Day of Mourning, started in the 1970’s as American Indian Movements started raising awareness to critical issues happening in Native Country. We honor our ancestors and the struggles of Indigenous survival and revitalization of our identity. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection, as well as a protest of the racism and oppression Indigenous people continue to experience.”

Sarah continued to explain that, “The Indigenous community does not look at this time as just a day, but a season (October: Binaakwe-Ggizis, or Falling Leaves Moon; November: Gashkadino-Giizis, or Freezing Over Moon). It allows us to practice who we are and make our offerings to those that have passed on. Harvest to Solstice season is a reflection time for our community. We sing our roundance songs, we tell our creation stories, and openly talk about who we are. We celebrate the abundance that the Spring and Summer have gifted us, from fruit to medicines we store and preserve then utilize throughout the winter months. We often offer these items on our spirit plates that our families foraged together.”

We acknowledge that learning new information isn’t always easy, but we see you do and learn new things every day when you participate in mentoring and support work in our community! We simply ask you to consider new possibilities in this season, and listen to new perspectives. Whether you identify as Native, you are already on a journey to understand and honor Native Peoples, or this is all very new to you, we would love to hear from you about how you plan to celebrate your Thanksgiving with the first celebration in mind.

Here are a few recommendations to get you started:



  • Listen to Lyla June sing about our collective future when All Nations Rise.
    • Lyla sings in both English and Spanish as Indigenous people come from all over the globe! (Did you know many of our Spanish speaking mentees and families, and even Affinity staff identify as Indigenous?) 



  • Learn about local Native/Indigenous programs and resources in Grand Rapids, such as Grand Rapids Public School district is teaching the next generation about our community’s Indigenous heritage through their Native American Education Program.
  • Auntie’s House: An Urban Indian Community Organization with information about Birth Programs, Food Sovereignty, Community Wellness, and Language.
  • Nizhomi Sol: Learn about Indigenous birthing practices and support.



Miigwetch to Sarah for sharing these amazing resources and learning opportunities with us!

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