January Is Mentor Appreciation Month!

Here at Affinity we believe in mutually beneficial mentoring relationships. We understand the the importance of continual community impact and in-reach–it takes a village. We enjoy hearing stories of how mentoring changes the lives and well-being of not only our students, but also our mentors. We appreciate community partners like Lexie and FWF who choose to continue making impact on students and families through Affinity Mentoring! Take a quick read of Lexie’s story below!

My name is Lexie Klunder and I am 23 years old. I went to Rockford High School and graduated with my BBA, Marketing and Sales from Grand Valley State University. After graduating, I began my career at Fifth Wheel Freight (FWF), a 3PL located in Kentwood, MI, in June of 2021. It has been an absolute joy to work alongside some of the most genuine and caring team members. Every day they are pushing me to be my best self, both personally and professionally.

I chose to volunteer at Affinity Mentoring when FWF presented the incredible opportunity. I knew that mentoring would be a great opportunity to push me out of my comfort zone, and it has in ways I could have never imagined. The Affinity Mentoring team provides a seamless and excellent experience for their mentors. Starting from the beginning of my journey with training up until the first day with my mentee, the Affinity Mentoring team was truly dedicated to giving 110% to make the experience incredible.

A special gift I see in my mentee is her ability to connect, care, listen, and empathize with others. From the start, she would ask me questions about my life and who I am. Her ability to connect and initiate conversation is admirable. When we walk down the hallway, she is constantly saying hello to everyone. She knows each of her classmates’ names, and she knows nearly every staff member. Every session, she greets me with a warm hug and a big smile. It is amazing how special it is to make that connection with my mentee.

One thing I wish everyone knew about mentoring is that it is not as intimidating as it may seem. I was not sure how I would get to know my mentee, and was nervous if we would be able to connect. The Affinity Mentoring staff does an amazing job from the start of the matching process, all the way through with their training program for new mentors. The site coordinators could not have been more spot-on with the mentee I was paired with. We share very similar interests and hobbies, along with our personal values.

I will never forget my first day of mentoring. All of the students were patiently waiting outside of the classrooms, lined up in the hallways awaiting the arrival of their mentors with excitement. When I saw my mentee, she ran up to me and hugged me. I did not realize how much mentoring would impact my life. My mentee continues to teach me more and more each week in every session we share together. I cannot wait to continue my journey as a mentor, and I cannot wait to see my mentee grow in the years ahead.

Mentor Story: Cait + Merlyn

September 2022 | By Rachel Humphreys

Cait’s first day of mentoring at Burton!

Cait was looking for an opportunity to give back. She yearned for an opportunity to make her life more well rounded; to find a volunteer opportunity that fed her soul. She stumbled upon Affinity Mentoring in the tail end of 2019. Then the pandemic happened and starting something new was set aside, for the time being at least…

As the fog began to clear a bit in 2021 she reached back out to Affinity Mentoring. 

“I was so nervous the first time I met my match,” recalls Cait. She remembers thinking, “I don’t have a ton of experience with kids!” Cait hadn’t done anything like mentoring before. 

“I was so worried about being matched and not being able to click with my student, but Rocio does a really great job of pairing mentors with their mentees,” she says. “After our interview, Rocio knew exactly the kind of student I would pair well with. She read me like a book. She paired me with a high energy, creative girl and the match was perfect!”

Cait was matched with Merlyn, a spunky, chatty, and excitable 8 year old. “We’re both the middle of 5 children. During our mentoring time we talk a lot, read, make crafts, and play. Family is very important to her and she has a good support system. She enjoys lots of quality time with her mom.”

Her goal is to make space for Merlyn to express her authentic self without fear of being teased or mocked. Cait explains that mentoring can be a healing experience. She recalls being nicknamed “loud girl” in school. “I was hyper, loud, and weird. I want Merlyn to be able to have a safe space to be her authentic self.” 

Learning about another culture has also been an added benefit. “It’s very eye opening, she’s learning two languages. Activities like reading together go a little differently than when I used to read with the boys I nannied in Ada.”

Whether it’s about her latest craft at her art table at home or stories of her ‘millions’ of cousins, Cait has found the key to mentoring – being present and listening.

“Mentoring is such a rewarding experience for both mentor and mentee. You can do so much good in such little time. I don’t think people realize how low of a time commitment mentoring can be and how easy it is to fit into your schedule. I hope more people look into mentoring,” she explains.

Although the mentoring commitment of one year has been completed, Cait will be returning this Fall to mentor Merlyn again. “I want it to be a long-time match. I want to be there, cheering, as Merlyn graduates high school.”

Interested in becoming a mentor? Sign up here.

100 Days, 100 Mentors

Each year we have over 100 students on our waiting list, asking for mentors across our six partner schools.

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 (virtual and in-person mentoring options available)!

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

Meet Affinity’s Better Together EmCees

April 26, 2022 | By Rachel Humphreys

After two long years, Affinity Mentoring is back to hosting its annual Better Together Benefit! This signature event showcases student talent, leadership, and the importance of mentoring relationships.

The funds raised from this event are essential to sustain our organization and support students and their mentors. Affinity’s goal is to raise $70,000 of unrestricted funds we use to support students during this crisis and throughout the entire year. Get in-person or virtual tickets here.

This year’s EmCees are Cass Salas and Isabel Landero!

Cass Salas (they/them)

Cass is an avid community volunteer, in addition to being a mentor to a 7th grader at Lee Middle School they are passionate about supporting unhoused residents of Grand Rapids, breaking the stigma around mental illness, caring for animals, and facilitating conversations about highly intersectional topics.

In their day job, Cass has worked in the restaurant and service industry for over 10 years. Their skills range from CNA, server, to event planning and self-proclaimed declutterer. A common thing about Cass is their service mindset, bringing dignity and hope to community members, and holding space for a judgment free perspective to learn from others.

Since becoming a mentor Cass says, “It reminds me of how to listen, teaches me all the ways I don’t know the world, and invigorates my soul.” They have also been an integral part of building the Lee Middle Mentoring Program through their work on the Middle School Mentoring Steering Committee.

Isabel Landero (uses all pronouns)

Isabel is a 9th grader at Lee High School. They are a very driven student and are extremely active in their school community. They love performing, having been in musicals, plays, and band. Isabel plays the Oboe and has also been part of the drumline. They enjoy the constant challenge and mastery of playing instruments and in the future want to attend the University of Michigan and play in the marching band.

Education is very important to their family and will be a first generation college student. Their dad is from Mexico and mom is from Estonia. Their family emigrated to the US to be able to give their kids a better life. Spanish is a big part of their family and after visiting family in Mexico it became one of Isabel’s goals to become more fluent.

Isabel is a passionate and driven leader who continues to maintain a 4.0 while balancing extracurriculars and work. In addition they are a member of the Student Advisory Council. Which most recently involved taking pictures at the High School’s Ground Breaking Ceremony and being a representative for student needs. When they’re not at school or performing, Isabel plays on the school soccer and volleyball teams, and also works weekends at Burger King.

Their leadership and work ethic in Middle School was recognised by Principal Andy Steketee and was one of three students personally invited by him to be part of the Middle School Mentoring Steering Committee.

They joined the MSMSC to help students who may be struggling. Even though Isabel has never had a mentor of their own, they wanted to make sure others would benefit from the program.

Mentoring Appreciation Night Award Winners

2019 Ripple Effect Award Winners: Dave and Sue Hodson

January is National Mentoring Month. Each year we celebrate our amazing mentors, partners, donors, and families for all that they do to support students. See below for the complete list of Mentoring Appreciation Night Awards Winners!

2022 Awards: Join us virtually Wednesday, January 26 awards, prizes and celebration! Grab a drink or snack and enjoy. You must register before the event to receive the Zoom link.

YearGo for the G.O.L.D. AwardPush Through AwardSoaring High AwardLongevity AwardPriceless PartnerRipple Effect AwardLukaart Legacy Award
2022Karen Small

Veronica Meza

Alex Stevenson
Geoffrey Bonham

Kim Stoub
Claire WoltersMike ZieteseMallowfieldsErika VanDykeAngel Barreto-Cruz

Luis Perez
2021Gary EveyCandy Wilkes-Scheper

Larry Whipple
Mike KruppDebbie SchuhmanKent District LibrarySergio Cira-Reyes

Carole Paine-McGovern and Kent School Services Network
Karina Zarate
2020Sara ArandaMadeline Aguillon

Kathee Longberg
Will HollandCindy KesselGordon Food ServiceJohana Rodriguez-QuistSusan Lukaart
2019NAVanessa NolteMaura LamoreauxSuzann VanklompenbergBlue Cross Blue Shield of MichiganDave and Sue HodsonNA