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.

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.

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!

Advancing Equity through Innovative Partnerships

By Rachel Humphreys

At Affinity, we work towards the mutual liberation of all of our community and believe that youth are already leaders and community members, but need equitable access and platforms to use their voice. Affinity’s mentoring model provides individual, one hour per week mentoring with trained, safe, supportive adults to support the growth of leadership and social-emotional skills, as well as math and literacy skills.

“We collaborate closely with school administration, community partners, and community members  that share our values to build close relationships and are strategically involved in area schools in a manner that strives to advance equity. Our partners help recruit mentors, financially support our program, and advocate for our organization,” explains Cassandra Kiger, executive director of Affinity Mentoring. “We have nearly 30 local partners, including Gordon Food Service, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Steelcase Foundation, and Kent School Services Network.”

This year we have worked extremely hard to rebuild and innovatively rethink our entire approach to mentoring in the most equitable way possible. As we reviewed community feedback and local data on health and safety, as well as personal fears surrounding COVID of various populations (Kent County Racial/Ethnic Data) (Kent Co. Latinos with COVID Die Younger and More Often) (African Americans Disproportionately Affected), we quickly realized that traditional mentoring would no longer be accessible to all students. 

For the past eight weeks the Affinity team has worked tirelessly to develop accessible, equitable, and safe methods for all mentors and mentees to continue meeting weekly from the safety of their homes, and/or with students in clean, individual spaces in mentor centers. “The overall cost of this overhaul in staff time and material resources has been approximately $30,000 above and beyond regular programming costs, but we believe that it is worth all students safely having access to mentoring, and we recognize the long-term investment that we are making in accessibility and technology,” explains Cassandra.

We shared our need for COVID relief and virtual mentoring support and our partners at Gordon Food Service (GFS) immediately stepped up to help. Despite being financially affected themselves by the pandemic, GFS committed to supplying 60 devices for our Mentor Centers. (Though students receive devices through their school, each household has a different level of technological fluency. Devices will be provided to families who specifically site issues with technology navigation as a barrier to virtual mentoring, as these devices will be specifically preprogrammed with all technology necessary for mentoring.) This equates to roughly $12,000 in technology support, not including the countless hours their IT department spent to ensure the computers were ready for students and mentors. GFS has been one of Affinity’s community partners since 2015 and the number of employees that volunteer as mentors has grown exponentially (8 to 84). 


Dave Veldink + Student Mentee

“Our [company] culture is reflective of our values. The Gordons are an amazing family and [Affinity Mentoring] ties in closely with the values of GFS,” says Dave Veldink, NA Director of Marketing and Merchandising Operations at Gordon Food Service and longtime mentor at Affinity

Not only are employees encouraged to volunteer, but leadership at GFS has done everything to remove obstacles from employees who would like to be mentors. This includes being flexible about scheduling accommodations for mentors and not requiring hourly employees to clock out during their mentoring hours. 

“We are proud to support Affinity Mentoring as an organization, but it’s our caring volunteer mentors that are the heart of our effort,” explains Rich Wolowski, President and Chief Executive Officer of Gordon Food Service (GFS). “This recent donation of technology will help ensure kids continue to connect with and build relationships with their mentors, to the social and academic benefit of the students, their families, and our community.”  

At Affinity we are grateful for our partners, like Gordon Food Service, who find innovative ways to leverage their resources, social capital, and network to support mentoring. To find out more about becoming a community partner click here.



Affinity is accepting applications for new mentors for Fall 2020. Our goal is to recruit 100 new mentors by September 9 and we currently need 53 more!

Laurie Vanderbroek + Student Mentee

Become a Mentor | Apply Now >
No prior mentoring experience is needed and we match people based on their interests, personalities, and background! Last year we matched 286 students with a mentor, our goal this year is 300. The online application takes less than 10 minutes. Once you have applied you will be contacted by one of our program staff to schedule an in-person interview. For the health and safety of students and mentors, this year mentoring will be virtual (learn more).

Commitment
One hour per week (during the school day 8am-4pm) for one school year (late September – late May). We cater to working professionals and can be flexible and reschedule sessions.

Mentoring Sites | More Info Here > 

  • Burton Elementary School and Burton Middle School
  • Southwest Community Campus Elementary 
  • Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center 

Kent District Library Partnership

By Rachel Humphreys

Kent District Library (KDL) has been an excellent partner alongside Affinity Mentoring for the past year. “KDL leadership is proud to support Affinity Mentoring and grow our partnership this fall. All KDL employees are encouraged to become mentors. To help make this a reality all KDL employees can use one paid hour of time each week to mentor,” explains Brian Mortimore, Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development at KDL and mentor at Burton Elementary.

“Promoting literacy skills is what we’re all about so it was a natural fit for KDL to partner with Affinity Mentoring and encourage our staff to mentor young people and we’re proud to continue that tradition in the year ahead,” continues Brian.

KDL plans to help recruit more employees this year even though mentoring will look at bit different. For the health and safety of students and mentors, this year mentoring will be in a virtual format (read more on virtual mentoring). However, what hasn’t changed is the support, “mentors will continue to have extensive support from site coordinators at each school, and support students in building skills in leadership, self-confidence, literacy and math,” says Cassandra Kiger, Executive Director of Affinity Mentoring.



Last year 8 KDL employees served as mentors and we want to highlight what a few had to say about their experience.

Julie Cook at Godfrey-Lee ECC

Julie Cook | Wyoming Assistant Branch Librarian
“My favorite memory with my mentee is doing hands-on literacy activities, fooling them that we are just playing a game, but in reality, we are practicing important literacy skills. I would highly suggest that KDL employees take the opportunity to be a positive role model in a child’s life, especially if they are located near your KDL branch. You can promote KDL materials and programing ideas to a child. It really shows that an adult in her life, outside of her family, really cares for their success socially, emotionally, and academically.”

Anjie Gleisner at Godfrey-Lee ECC

Anjie Gleisner | Wyoming Branch Manager
“As a youth librarian turned library manager, I often miss reading to my story time kiddos! It’s wonderful to be able to share books with a child again. Mentoring has been a great way to establish a connection with a school near my library and it’s a wonderful change of pace to my work week. It’s something that I have always wanted to do but could not because of my work schedule. My employer allowed me the flexibility to do this during the workday. This was a huge plus! It’s something that I look forward to every week.”




Learn more about our community partnerships or sign up to become a mentor.

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 are transitioning to virtual mentoring for Fall 2020 in our COVID-19 Response Plan]

Last year, we were able to recruit 115 new mentors! Help us support even more students in our community. Share our campaign on social media with the hashtag #100days100mentors and tag us on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Affinity COVID-19 Response Plan

[Disponible en Español abajo]

Affinity Mentoring is committed to the health and safety of our students, volunteers, and staff. We continue to keep up to date with the most recent directives from Governor Whitmer, Kent County Health Department, and schools partners (Grand Rapids Public Schools and Godfrey-Lee Public Schools). We are using the MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap to plan out health and safety measures we need to safely run mentoring this fall. The Roadmap provides required, strongly recommended, and recommended safety protocols to keep school communities safe based on the local status of the coronavirus. Additionally, the Roadmap provides recommendations across mental and social-emotional health, instruction, and operations within each phase of the MI Safe Start Plan to support all schools in Michigan as they continue their return to school planning and move towards implementation.



Health and Safety Recommendations

As stated in the Roadmap, “The effects of COVID-19 on the health of racial and ethnic minority groups and vulnerable populations are still emerging; however, current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. Evidence also indicates that access to technology—devices and high-speed internet—is correlated to race and socioeconomic status which is likely to manifest in learning loss amongst vulnerable populations.” 

Over 80% of the students and families we partner with at Affinity identify as people of color and are financially disadvantaged. We are committed to implementing all required and strongly recommended protocols, and as many recommended safety protocols as resources allow to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 to our students and families that are most vulnerable in the community. Additionally we make the following commitments as we continue to navigate this pandemic alongside the community:

  • HEALTH PRACTICES: We will follow all of the most up to date health practices and recommendations as communicated by Governor Whitmer and the Kent County Health Department.
  • PARTNERSHIP: We will work closely with all of our community partners and, if they have more restrictive COVID-19 prevention policies, we will rise to their standards.
  • SAFETY: We will not allow any staff or mentor to be in the school buildings or meet one-on-one with students who, at the time of the meeting, tests positive for COVID-19, is symptomatic, or has knowledge of being around a COVID-19 positive individual in the past two weeks.
  • EQUITY: We will continue to support our community partners, students, and families through this time and provide resources and assistance as needed and able while maintaining and increasing our focus on equity through this process.
  • WORKING REMOTELY:  Affinity Mentoring staff will continue to work remotely until it is safe for all industries to return to work. Staff are available via email. General questions can be directed to info@affinitymentoring.org.


Virtual Mentoring

At this time we are preparing our programming to take place under Phase 4 (or less) of the Roadmap which recommends that schools be open for in-person instruction with more stringent safety protocols. In this Phase we can anticipate short-term dismissals, suspension of extracurricular activities, and reducing non-essential personnel in the building. 

Keeping this in mind, it is our plan to move forward with the 2020-2021 mentoring program, however it will be converted to a virtual format. At this time we do not have all of the details but we are committed to providing:

  • students with the technology needed to connect virtually with their mentor*;
  • full site coordination and support for mentors and mentees in relationship building and technology use; and
  • adapting orientation, information sessions, and ongoing training to virtual models.

*Mentors will be asked to provide their own device with audio/video capabilities and access to the internet. We will have more detailed information and instructions available mid-August. If mentors have any immediate concerns about this, please contact us at info@affinitymentoring.org.



Virtual Mentoring Costs

We are committed to providing mentoring services at no cost to families, students, or our school partners. There is a significant start-up cost for adapting our in-person mentoring program to a virtual platform. To learn more about our financial needs and how you can help check out our COVID-19 Relief Blog.

Questions or Concerns? Please direct your questions to the following people:

We will continue to share updates and resources with our families, students, volunteers, and community via email, our website, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages. 

During this uncertain time, we ask that you continue to support the work of Affinity Mentoring and other nonprofits in our community. Your support through finances and time is more important than ever. 

Thank you for your continued support and understanding during these challenging times. 

MAKE A DONATION


Thank you!
– Affinity Mentoring team

Resources

Affinity MIOSHA COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan
MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap
Kent County Health Department
Grand Rapids Public Schools Coronavirus Resources Page
Godfrey-Lee Public Schools COVID-19 Information
Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network
Offering or Requesting Support Form
COVID-19 Volunteer Translation Services
Free Online Educational Resources via GRPS
GR Children’s Museum At Home Play Activities and Resources



Plan de Respuesta de Affinity para COVID-19 

Affinity Mentoring está comprometido a la buena salud y la seguridad de nuestros estudiantes, voluntarios y personal. Seguimos actualizándonos con las directivas más recientes de la Gobernadora Whitmer, el Departamento de Salud del Condado de Kent y los socios de las escuelas (Escuelas Públicas de Grand Rapids y Escuelas Públicas de Godfrey-Lee). Estamos utilizando la Guía MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap para planificar las medidas de salud y seguridad que necesitamos para llevar a cabo la mentoría de manera segura este otoño. La Guía proporciona protocolos de seguridad requeridos, altamente recomendados y recomendados para mantener a las comunidades escolares seguras de acuerdo con el estatus local del coronavirus. Además, la Guía proporciona recomendaciones sobre salud mental y socioemocional, instrucción y operaciones dentro de cada fase del Plan de Inicio Seguro de MI para apoyar a todas las escuelas en Michigan a medida que continúan la planificación para regresar a la escuela y avanzan hacia la implementación.

RECOMENDACIONES DE SALUD Y SEGURIDAD

Como se indica en la Guía, “Los efectos de COVID-19 en la salud de los grupos minoritarios raciales y étnicos y las poblaciones vulnerables aún están en estatus emergente; sin embargo, los datos actuales sugieren una carga desproporcionada de enfermedad y muerte entre los grupos minoritarios raciales y étnicos. La evidencia también indica que el acceso a la tecnología (dispositivos e Internet de alta velocidad) está correlacionado con la raza y el estado socioeconómico que probablemente se manifieste en la pérdida de aprendizaje entre las poblaciones vulnerables.”

Más del 80% de los estudiantes y las familias con las que apoyamos en Affinity se identifican como personas de color y están en desventaja financiera. Estamos comprometidos a implementar todos los protocolos requeridos y altamente recomendados, y tantos protocolos de seguridad recomendados como permitan nuestros recursos para minimizar el riesgo de exposición al COVID-19 para nuestros estudiantes y familias que son más vulnerables en la comunidad. Además, asumimos los siguientes compromisos a medida que continuamos navegando esta pandemia junto con la comunidad:

  • PRÁCTICAS DE SALUD: Seguiremos todas las prácticas y recomendaciones de salud más actualizadas según lo comunicado por la Gobernadora Whitmer y el Departamento de Salud del Condado de Kent.
  • COLABORACIÓN: Trabajaremos en colaboración con todos nuestros socios de la comunidad y, si tienen políticas de prevención COVID-19 más restrictivas, alcanzaremos hasta sus estándares.
  • SEGURIDAD: No permitiremos que ningún miembro del personal o mentor esté en los edificios de la escuela o se reúnan uno a uno con estudiantes que, en el momento de la reunión, den positivo por COVID-19, tengan sintomáticos o tengan conocimiento de estar cerca de un COVID -19 individuo positivo en las últimas dos semanas.
  • EQUIDAD: Continuaremos apoyando a nuestros socios comunitarios, estudiantes y familias durante este tiempo y proporcionaremos recursos y asistencia según sea necesario y posible mientras mantenemos y aumentamos nuestro enfoque en la equidad a través de este proceso.
  • TRABAJANDO DE FORMA REMOTA:  El personal de Affinity Mentoring continuará trabajando de forma remota hasta que sea seguro para todas las industrias volver a trabajar. El personal está disponible por correo electrónico. Las preguntas generales pueden dirigirse a info@affinitymentoring.org.

MENTORÍA VIRTUAL

En este momento, estamos preparando nuestra programación para la Fase 4 (o menos) de la Guía que recomienda que las escuelas estén abiertas para la instrucción en persona con protocolos de seguridad más estrictos. En esta Fase podemos anticipar despidos a corto plazo, la suspensión de actividades extracurriculares y la reducción de personal no esencial en el edificio.

Teniendo esto en cuenta, es nuestro plan avanzar con el programa de mentoría 2020-2021, sin embargo, se convertirá a un formato virtual. En este momento no tenemos todos los detalles, pero estamos comprometidos a proporcionar:

  • a los estudiantes la tecnología necesaria para conectarse virtualmente con su mentor*;
  • coordinación completa del sitio y apoyo para mentores y mentorizados en el desarrollo de relaciones y el uso de tecnología; y
  • adaptación de la orientación, sesiones de información y capacitación continua a modelos virtuales.

*Se pedirá a los mentores que proporcionen su propio dispositivo con capacidades de audio/video y acceso al Internet. Tendremos información más detallada e instrucciones disponibles al medio de agosto. Si los mentores tienen alguna inquietud inmediata en este respecto, contáctenos en info@affinitymentoring.org.

COSTE DE MENTORÍA VIRTUAL

Estamos comprometidos a proporcionar servicios de mentoría sin costo para las familias, los estudiantes o nuestros socios escolares. Existe un costo inicial considerable para adaptar nuestro programa de mentoría en persona a una plataforma virtual. Para obtener más información sobre nuestras necesidades financieras y cómo puede ayudar, consulte nuestro blog de Apoyo para COVID-19.

¿Preguntas o preocupaciones? Dirija sus preguntas a las siguientes personas:

  • Mentores, mentorizados o miembro de la familia que regresan: póngase en contacto directamente con la coordinadora de su sitio
  • Preguntas de los nuevos mentores: Rocio Moreno
  • Socios de la comunidad (donaciones en especie, apoyo financiero, etc.): Rachel Humphreys 
  • Preguntas generales sobre protocolos de COVID-19 y seguridad: Cassandra Kiger 

Continuaremos compartiendo actualizaciones y recursos con nuestras familias, estudiantes, voluntarios y la comunidad por correo electrónico, nuestro sitio de web, Facebook y LinkedIn.

Durante este tiempo incierto, le pedimos que continúe apoyando el trabajo de Affinity Mentoring y otras organizaciones sin fines de lucro en nuestra comunidad. Su apoyo a través de las finanzas y su tiempo es más importante que nunca.

Gracias por su continuo apoyo y comprensión durante estos tiempos difíciles.

-Equipo de Affinity Mentoring

Recursos

Affinity MIOSHA COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan
MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap
Kent County Health Department
Grand Rapids Public Schools Coronavirus Resources Page
Godfrey-Lee Public Schools COVID-19 Information
Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network
Offering or Requesting Support Form
COVID-19 Volunteer Translation Services
Free Online Educational Resources via GRPS
GR Children’s Museum At Home Play Activities and Resources




Updated: August 31, 2020

Mentor Story: Cindy + Nicole

By Rachel Humphreys

“When I think of Cindy, I think of a second mom. Mentoring had a huge impact on my life.” 

Nicole was a shy and quiet 3rd grader at Burton Elementary, waiting for a mentor. Cindy was a member of Mars Hill Bible Church, involved in children’s ministry, and her oldest had just graduated high school when she heard about the need for mentors. Although she had never been a formal mentor before, she thought “That’s something I can do.” 

Nicole and Cindy began meeting over the lunch hour. Nicole fondly remembers, “I’d be so excited every week. I’d get to miss class, meet with Cindy, play basketball, and eat McDonalds. I loved it.”

13 years later, Nicole and Cindy are back at Burton Elementary. Nicole smiles as they walk the halls, remembering various classrooms and teachers. Cindy looks up to Nicole, “I don’t remember you being this tall,” she teases. Cindy has journeyed alongside Nicole long past their formal mentoring days and has had the opportunity to see her grow into a strong, adventurous, and brave young woman. Even after Nicole transferred to another school district they remained close. “We committed to each other and built a good relationship,” explains Cindy. More than a decade later they still text, meet to catch up, and connect via social media.

Leaning over a table in the library, the pair laugh like old friends swapping photos – remembering squinty graduation poses, Steak ‘ Shake dates, prom dresses, and their first year of mentoring. “It was really nice to have her there. She was always there for me for a lot of milestones – basketball, graduation, birthdays, prom – just like another family member celebrating with me,” says Nicole.

Every birthday Cindy would take Nicole to Chuck E Cheese to celebrate and she attended as many of Nicole’s basketball and softball games as possible. Nicole was included in many of Cindy’s family events too, like school plays, church, and sport outings. 

“Mentoring is not hard when you have someone like Nicole. However, you don’t necessarily see the effect of it and are unsure if you’re making any difference,” explains Cindy. Although she didn’t know it, Cindy helped shape Nicole’s future path.

“Cindy being my mentor definitely had a huge impact on me. She helped me get out of my shy phase and she helped me find my passion for aviation. I used to want to be a veterinarian, but one summer Cindy helped me get into Grand Valley State University’s STEPS (Science, Technology, Engineering, Preview Summer) Camp.” 

“I love getting my hands dirty, using wrenches, and ratchets. After that STEPS Camp I fell in love with aviation and knew that’s what I wanted to do. I love to just put on my safety glasses and do my thing. It brings me so much joy. Some people my age are still trying to figure out what they want to do; I figured it out in 6th grade thanks to Cindy.”

Once she locked onto her dream, Nicole pursued it with a passion. She took two years of aviation maintenance at Kent County Technical Center (KCTC), earned her Associates Degree in Applied Science at Lansing Community College, and received additional certifications in specialty areas including: general, airframe and powerplant aviation. Listening to Nicole describe her school and excitement for her new job Cindy beams, “I am so proud of her. She’s increased her confidence and I won’t take credit for that. Her mom is so involved, works really hard, and sets a great example.”

Over the past decade Nicole has discovered her passion and strength. Choosing to work in a male-dominated field, she has found herself being the only female in the majority of her aviation classes. “I’m used to it. I’m not worried about handling them,” she laughs confidently. Keeping in line with her adventurous side, Nicole recently relocated to Illinois for a new job. “As an aircraft structural mechanic I’ll be working on commercial aircrafts for Boeing. I’m anxious, but ready to work and I know I’m going to love it,” she beams. 

“Mentoring is such a great opportunity. Not all 3rd graders might think of it like that, but it’s definitely worth it for every student that has the opportunity to try,” says Nicole.

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If you’d like to make an impact like Cindy, sign up to mentor here OR if you would like to make a small monthly donation to support students like Nicole, give here.

Mentor Story: James + Jerry

By Rachel Humphreys

James [left] and Jerry [right] during a Friday mentoring session.

Sitting outside the Mentor Center at Burton Elementary, James and Jerry are intently working on an i-Pad. A victory sound chimes, Jerry eagerly turns to James with a huge grin and begins a celebratory dance in his chair. James congratulates Jerry on completing Level 8, a challenging activity to master “Silent E” (an activity assigned to the match by Jerry’s second grade teacher, Ms. Almanza).

The two are in their second year of mentoring. Jerry is cheerful, funny, and talkative. His mom, Blanca, enrolled him in the program because she wanted him to have a mentor to help him build confidence in speaking and have a positive role model.    

James works at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) and heard about the opportunity to mentor through his colleague, Jason Loepp. Jason leads the BCBSM partnership, is an Affinity board member, and has been a mentor for the past 5 years. After learning about James’ background in nonprofit management, after-school programming, and love for the community he encouraged him to apply.


Jason Loepp and James Peterson accept Affinity’s 2019 Priceless Partner Award on behalf of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

“It’s the highlight of my week,” explains James. “After a long work week, I look forward to our Friday mentoring sessions to share jokes and laugh,” he smiles. James is originally from the Lansing area and spent several years working in Detroit through MSU Extension. He and his wife, Samantha, moved to Grand Rapids a few years ago to work for BCBSM. The community partnership with Affinity made it easy for him to participate, “BCBSM gives volunteer hours. They are very open to volunteerism and being part of the community. I just had to let leadership know.”

Jerry’s favorite thing to do together is read the “Fly Guy Series” (if you’re unfamiliar with what kids are reading these days, this popular series follows the adventures of a kid, Buzz, and his pet fly, Fly Guy, as they navigate daily life challenges). Jerry and James are often found in heated (yet playful) debates on which one of them is more like Buzz or Fly Guy. 

James and Jerry have strengthened their friendship over the last two school years. “I see his confidence and best-self coming out. We play a lot of soccer, read books, and we work through things when he’s upset, often talking about Fly Guy,” says James.

With two young children of his own and full-time job, James is very intentional about making time for mentoring each week, “My job is chaotic, but I just make it work. When I’m here I make sure I’m present in the moment and attentive. I shut everything else out.”

James appreciates the staff support and says, “It’s been really helpful. Rocio does a great job of letting me know if Jerry and his family are coming to an event or if I miss a progress report.” This year his goal is to get Jerry more engaged in the mentoring events that happen. 

“We’re always working together,” explains Jerry. “He helps me learn new words.” He describes James as “nice, helpful, and kind” and he looks forward to his weekly mentoring. Jerry says, “If we stopped meeting I would feel sad. I was waiting for like a year to have a mentor. I feel really happy together. It’s a lot of fun.”

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a community partner, click here, or support matches like Jerry and James by making a small monthly donation.

A Tale of Two Mothers: Debbie + Victoria

By Rachel Humphreys

Debbie, a kind and gentle soul, has been mentoring students for the past decade. She heard about the opportunity through one of Affinity’s partners, Mars Hill Bible Church. “I liked the one-on-one program where you invest in long-term relationships, build trust, and watch them grow.”

Debbie recalls the first few weeks of mentoring, “I was nervous about helping with school stuff and getting more immediate results. Then I realized it’s more of an investment of one hour at a time, it’s building the relationship and the foundation a bit more each visit.”

Victoria, a compassionate and loving person, has four daughters, including Stephanie and Emelinda who have both been part of the mentoring program. She remembers first hearing about the program when Emelinda came home from Kindergarten saying, “Mami, quiero un mentor.” She helped her sign up, however, Victoria never realized what this relationship would blossom into or how their two families would intertwine. 

Emelinda was soon matched with Debbie. Victoria describes Debbie as someone with a huge heart that loves working with kids. She recalls Debbie always being at every event. After a bit of time together, she saw her shy and quiet daughter come out of her shell and become more confident. Emelinda started to play more, talk more, paint, and improve her English.

“[They’re] my surrogate family,” smiles Debbie. “Her mom and I have the same birthday and we always text each other. They are a really nice family that supports each other. I’m glad I can be a part of it and that they trust me.” Victoria agrees, “God put her in our path, she is part of our family and my daughters are really happy with her. Every time our birthday comes around we ask each other – so where are we going to celebrate?”

“Debbie gives good advice, like another mother, to my daughters, but also to me. She tells me I’m doing a good job, to be patient, and not to worry because I’m a good mom. No one has ever told me that before, not even my own mother. I don’t know whether she is like another mother to my daughters, or to me,” explains Victoria.

After Emelinda and Debbie had been a match for 6 years, it was coming to a close. Emelinda was entering middle school and yearning to spend more time with friends. Debbie and Victoria both felt the change and comforted each other as they saw her pull away, not wanting to talk, and becoming more distant. Debbie wasn’t sure what to do. However, after talking to Affinity staff member, Laura Ward, she helped her understand that she was no longer in need of a mentor and that was OK. Being a mom herself, it finally clicked and she understood not to take it personally, “I thought to myself, ‘I know that age.’”

Victoria remembers, “When [Emelinda] was done with the program I was worried about losing the relationship with Debbie. No one was going to be there helping me, telling me I’m doing a good job. We both cried. I knew, she too, was sad in her heart. We started texting each other. She helped me understand girls go through their changes differently. She kept telling me to be strong, and she would help me. I would repeat it to myself over and over.”

Debbie sees the role of a mentor as an encourager. “I always tell Emelinda ‘You’re so smart, creative, generous, and amazing.’ Later I would hear her repeat it, ‘You know, I am pretty smart and creative.’” Victoria started to feel more confident too, “Now there were two people [Debbie] and I sending Emelinda messages and reinforcing the same thing.”

One day, there was a big surprise for Victoria, “I got her off the bus and she was happy, smiling and said ‘¡Hola Mami!’ and grabbed my hand. Later that evening I sat between my four girls asking them about school.” Emelinda went last, “‘¿Mami, tienes la oportunidad de hablar?’ It was a huge surprise, we talked for over an hour. She recalled Debbie’s talks about how middle school is so different and Emelinda was surprised that everything she said would happen, did.” Afterward they both hugged and finally, turned a corner in their mother-daughter relationship. The first thing Victoria wanted to do was to let Debbie know that she’s going to be OK.

As fate would have it, Emelinda’s younger sister, Stephanie, had been in the mentoring program too. However, due to life circumstances her mentor, Marla, had to leave after a year and Stephanie was devastated. However, Affinity’s Burton site coordinator, Rocio Moreno, recognized this as a great opportunity to bring the two families together again. She reached out to Debbie and Victoria both to see how they felt about matching Debbie with Stephanie – they both wholeheartedly said yes. 

Growing up, Stephanie had known Debbie and attended events with her older sister and Debbie. When Stephanie learned that Debbie would now be HER mentor, she  started jumping around and was so happy. Victoria says, “Now I don’t have to worry about when they are together. I trust her. She is a huge help to my daughters and they have so much fun together.” 

Victoria is a big advocate for mentoring and has already been referring other parents to the program, “Mentors help with the things you can’t teach as a mom or dad. They can play soccer, do different activities, if your kid likes something that you don’t the mentor can do it with them. It’s a whole new experience – for the whole family.”



Ready to start your own journey? Become a Mentor or Sponsor a Mentor Match




*Editor’s Note* As most Affinity’s blog articles are captured, I had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Debbie and Victoria to hear their story. Victoria’s interview was in Spanish and Debbie’s in English. Neither one speaks the other language. One of the most remarkable things about their relationships is that despite their language barrier, they have developed this deep, lifelong bond. Our team is honored to have the opportunity to play a role in these two families’ journeys and support where we can in cultivating meaningful relationships and experiences.

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