Celebrating Team Transitions

October 2022

Angela Reyna, Lee MS Site Coordinator

We are celebrating two Affinity team members, Angela Reyna and Rachel Humphreys, as they take the next steps in their careers! Both joined Affinity’s team in 2018 and have been integral members in its expansion and propelling the organization towards a more equitable future.

Angela Reyna | Angela was a mentee in the Burton Mentoring Program (read past the blog) nearly 20 years ago. Then in 2018 she joined the team as a Program Assistant; supporting students, mentors, and families at each Mentor Center. In 2021 she was promoted to Lee Middle School Site Coordinator where she not only opened a new site, she also co-led and co-founded both the Middle School Mentoring Steering Committee and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. 

As a Burton and Godfrey-Lee alum Angela brought personal experience, passion, and creativity to the organization. We are grateful for her work and wish her well on her future endeavors. Angela’s last day is October 13th.

Fun Fact: Angela and her mentor, Wendy, are STILL in contact. This goes to show the impact of mentoring and the lifelong connections that are made.

Rachel Humphreys, Communications and Development Director

Rachel Humphreys | Rachel joined the Affinity team in 2018 as the Communications and Development Director to help the young nonprofit transition from its partner organization, Mars Hill. Her leadership in advancement helped increase Affinity’s revenue streams, overall budget, and cultivate partnerships with local businesses and nonprofits. The organization has seen a 48% increase in revenue and has expanded from two to five mentor centers.

Rachel was a founding member of the DEI Committee, along with Angela, and advocated for community-centric fundraising, inclusive communications, and cultivating a space of belonging. Her last day is October 14th.

Fun Fact: Rachel was the first mentor Angela interviewed as a new Program Assistant in 2018. The match has been a huge success. Rachel and her mentee, Ericka, have returned for their 5th year of mentoring together.

Affinity Intern Spotlight: Lauren

April 2022

Lauren Enos, MSW Intern

Lauren Enos joined Affinity’s team in May of 2021 as the Masters of Social Work (MSW) Intern. Lauren is finishing her masters at Grand Valley State University this month. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Wagner College in New York City.

During her time at Affinity, Lauren has supported both the programming and administrative teams, honing her skills in:

  • Grant writing;
  • Program evaluation;
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion;
  • Youth development; and
  • Community partnerships

In addition, she served on both the Middle School Mentoring Steering Committee and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Post-internship, Lauren has been contracted to lead Affinity’s DEI Committee.

“It is difficult to put into words what my experience at Affinity Mentoring has meant to me. I decided to pursue my graduate studies in my mid-thirties, as a recent Michigan transplant, with a 2 year old. I entertained being able to pursue my passion for identity development and mentoring, one that was sparked back in undergrad,” explains Lauren. “In preparing for joining the Affinity team as an MSW intern, I had no idea I would meet some of the most dedicated, compassionate and caring individuals. I am thankful for the time and opportunities Affinity has provided for me, but I am even more thankful to know that there are organizations filled with people that value caring for each other, making space for difficult times, and leaning into difficult conversations. Affinity has opened the door for me to explore my passions, and I am forever grateful,” she says.

In addition, Lauren will be presenting at the Midwest Interdisciplinary Graduate Conference (MIGC) and the Center for 21st Century Studies for her amazing website compilation of Anti-racism Resources for Education and Mentoring.

She has been selected for the Graduate School Citations for Academic Excellence in the Winter 2022 semester. This is an honor given by Grand Valley State University to graduate students who have been nominated by the faculty for Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusion and Diversity at GVSU. 

Lauren also received the Diversity in Human Rights Award from the GVSU School of Social Work. We’re proud to be part of Lauren’s journey and grateful for the insights and initiatives she provided to our team. To learn more about our internship offerings, contact info@affinitymentoring.org or see what’s available on our Careers Page.

Affinity appoints new Executive Director

April 19, 2022 | By Rachel Humphreys

Sharalla Ankrah, Executive Director of Affinity Mentoring

Affinity Mentoring’s Board of Directors has named Sharalle Ankrah the new Executive Director. Cassandra will remain on staff until May 13 to support the leadership transition.

Sharalle holds a wealth of experience in both education and mentoring. She’s worked as an educator within a GRPS-authorized charter school, a director of after school programming, and a director of other mentoring organizations.

“We look forward to how she will help move Affinity Mentoring forward with her strong skill set which includes grant writing, diversity, equity and inclusion, and leadership experience,” says John Robinson, Affinity Mentoring board president. “She is a passionate and  experienced leader who has a deep understanding of the community. She brings critical perspective and insight, and was unanimously chosen by both the Affinity Mentoring team and board to step into this role.”

Sharalle is a graduate from Grand Valley State University with a degree in English for Secondary Education. A Detroit native, Sharalle has always had a heart for community development through inspiring the forthcoming generation. She believes mentoring can help create equitable opportunities for growth and community impact among students and families who are often left in the margins.

“We have made incredible changes to so many aspects of Affinity Mentoring over the past two years, but I fully recognize that we are approaching the limits of what my leadership can offer to the organization,” said Cassandra, Affinity Mentoring’s outgoing executive director. “It is with true honor and joy that I pass the mic over to Sharalle as the next executive director of Affinity Mentoring.”

Sharalle has worked hard to develop curricula and facilitate programming that influences student’s conduct, decisions, leadership, and helped reveal identity. Sharalle  heavily enjoys directing youth ministry at her local church and spending quality time with family and friends. She values the relationships created with her students in Grand Rapids, South Africa, and West Africa, and being a continued resource for students and families. 

Sharalle’s personal mission statement is to aid in identity development through education and example. She has a vision to be a  leader in youth development in Grand Rapids with influence on a systematic level that brings revenue, impact, and action into Affinity Mentoring.

Download the Press Release.

Affinity Intern Spotlight: Hannah

March 9, 2022

Hannah VanHoorne, BSW Intern

“My name is Hannah VanHoorne and I am a social work student at Grand Valley State University. I am a motivated, self-driven, and compassionate person with experience in behavioral analysis and mentoring skills. I have found personal benefit in working in schools, hospitals, and therapy centers.”

Hannah spends more of her time in the Burton Mentor Center supporting students and mentors.

Thank you for your service and commitment to Affinity!

Meet our other 2021-2022 intern, Lauren Enos!

Black History Month

February 2021

February is Black History Month!
This is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. We’ll be sharing personal experiences, celebrations, and resources from our board and team members!

The theme for 2022 focuses on the importance of Black Health and Wellness. This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.” ASALH: Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Consider supporting and learning from more local Black scholars and medical practitioners:
– Grand Rapids African American Health Institute
– Baxter Community Center
– Urban Core Collective
– NAACP Grand Rapids
Our board and team members reflect on Black History Month:

"As a Black transracial adoptee, my identity as a Black person was not always something I celebrated. My closest family members are white. My parents are white. My school, my church, all my friends were white. At home, we had dolls, books, and toys to remind me that Black people exist, and Black people are beautiful. But still, my surroundings were white.

One time, maybe around 8 or 9 years old, I was in the car with a friend and her mom (both white) when my friend asked me why I was darker than my family. Excitement shot through my body. I knew my story was special. My family and I always shared this story among ourselves with such pride. As I began to explain my adoption story, my friend's mom whipped her head around from the front seat to scold her daughter for asking such a personal question. I felt the embarrassment rush in. "Maybe being adopted is bad," I told myself. 'Maybe being Black is bad.'

I decided I didn't want to talk about it anymore. My Blackness became something to hide. I would straighten my hair, watch Lizzie McGuire, and listen to 'white people music' only. I suppressed myself. Condensed myself. I made myself less. I figured if I could fly under the radar, 'act less Black,' maybe no one would notice or ask questions.

When I started college, my whole world changed. I had enrolled in a program specifically designed for students of color. For the first time in my life I had Black educators. All my professors were Black, and all my peers were people of color. The people I saw every day were people of color. For the first time ever, I didn't feel smaller than the people around me. I felt the flimsy shell of faux-whiteness cracking off my Black skin. I felt Black. But not in a 'stop asking questions' way. I felt Black in a good way.

Recently, the Black experience in America has been under more surveillance than ever. Netflix and HBO are highlighting films with Black actors. Ben and Jerry's broke the internet in June of 2020 with this hot take. Ibram X Kendi sold nearly 2 Million copies of 'How to Be an Antiracist.' Everyone is reading the books. Everyone is eyeing the statistics. Everyone is trying to do their due diligence as we unpack 'Black.' For me, my due diligence is an internal reminder that I owe to my once-9-year-old self: My experience is a Black experience simply because I am Black.

I am Black. I am Black in a good way. I am Black in the best way. I am not small. I am not hiding. I am so proud to be Black. I am so proud to be me. "

Abigail Bruins
Board Member

"As a woman who identifies as Black, African and American, my identity has been very complex to describe...'you had to be there' or 'you had to live it' is how I candidly describe it. However, because of the intersectionality of my identity - I can say that I am mostly proud, because I am able to relate to the lived experiences of very many Black, African and American people. I am grateful for the journey my life has afforded me, the struggles that taught me memorable lessons and the grace that allows me to extend genuine empathy and compassion to those who are marginalized because of these identities."

Christine Mwangi
Board Member

"I’m using this month to reflect on how I invest my time, talent, and treasure to support and amplify Black voices in my personal and professional realms. The erasure of Black voices in history, education, and liberation movements (only to name a few) is perpetuated and upheld by individuals and systems that do not correct past and current treatment of Black Americans. While dedicating a month to honor and celebrate Black Americans’ contributions to the nation is important, it’s also essential that we make long term solutions to amplify and support the Black community all year long.

In my professional day to day activities I’m making a point to research, read, and listen to Black philanthropists. If there’s one thing I have learned it’s that Black philanthropy IS American philanthropy. Black erasure is prevalent in most every sector, but especially philanthropy. Where certain groups are labeled “givers” or “receivers.” According to the 2018 Demographic Report of the Association of Fundraising Professionals of the more than 31,000 members, less than 10 percent are professionals of color (This includes those who self-identify as: African American, Hispanic, Native American, Multi-Ethnic, Alaskan Native, and Pacific Islander). This is problematic for a number of reasons, more than I can speak on in a blog. But this led me to begin exploring how Black philanthropists have been erased from history and why most fundraising practices are focused on white, upper-middle class donors.

A prime example is of Madam C.J. Walker’s legacy of charitable giving during the 1900s and Jim Crow era, which is often overlooked or a footnote in her accomplishments. Madame C.J. Walker was born to enslaved parents, was orphaned young, and became the first SELF-MADE millionaire. Her giving was strategic and an essential part of her life no matter what amount she had in her pockets.
Book: Madam C.J. Walker’s Gospel of Giving: Black Women’s Philanthropy During Jim Crow by Tyrone McKinley Freeman
Netflix Limited Series: Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker

I’m an avid reader and love to explore local coffee shops. This month I've been adding to my list of Black-owned businesses, authors, and movements to further my knowledge and support local.
A City Within a City: The Black Freedom Struggle in Grand Rapids, MI by Todd E. Robinson
Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Bookstore:When you are buying books, see if we are lit (local multicultural bookstore) has it first!
While you’re at it, support Black-owned coffee shops like Last Mile Cafe and Shift Coffee + Culture🙂

I’m always geeked to meet a fellow bibliophile and nerd out on my latest reads - add me on Goodreads!"

Rachel Humphreys
Communications and Development Director

"For some time now I’ve always known that February is Black History Month and I saw it as an opportunity to educate myself on how enslaved people were treated and how they became free, I pay my respects by watching inspirational movies and documentaries. Although I am Hispanic and do not identify as Black, I do relate to being minority. As I get older I am understanding that Black History Month is not just about slavery, MLK, and protests, it’s also about celebrating Black community and achievements, it’s an opportunity for us to step out of our own circle and embrace other cultures, and support Black-owned businesses. February is a reminder to create awareness, get involved, and respect the sacrifice endured. I celebrate not only the historical freedom but also the freedom of the emotional bondages within ourselves and our community. Together we thrive!"

Mayra Rodriguez
Office Coordinator

"Black History Month is a regular opportunity for me to remember how much I simply don't know, and to be grateful for the beautiful, kind, patient Black people who have graciously helped me learn (or graciously told me to stop asking them and go learn on my own). This month is a cognitive reminder to celebrate the accomplishments collectively fought for and made, to lament how far we have yet to go and the inequities that remain in our society, and to make actual plans and move forward real goals towards change. Black History Month makes me remember that I need to strive for more empathy, that there are stories and life experiences that I will never understand, that I need to believe black people when they share their experiences and follow their lead in change."

Cassandra Kiger
Executive Director

"Yay, it's Black History Month. Although I do not identify as Black or African American I'm always excited to learn about their amazing history and all that they have overcome to ensure a better future for the coming generations. Although there are still many obstacles to overcome I would like to share one of my favorite Black/African American people who in their own way have empowered me to be a bulldozer of a woman. Rosa Parks is one of the women that from a young girl I looked up to because I was mesmerized by her strength to stand up for what she believed was fair. I have always admired her for her bravery and her willingness to never back down no matter the consequences."

Rocio Moreno
Program Director and Burton Site Coordinator

"I have spent a lot of my life wondering about my identity. As a biracial Black woman, whose Black roots cross a variety of cultures and histories, I never felt like I was allowed to claim myself as Black. I grew up in Maine, surrounded by White people, asking me 'What are you?,' or making racist comments about my appearance, or making racist jokes around me then claiming I couldn’t be offended because I 'wasn’t actually Black.'

In college, I learned about Black identity development, and I experienced what is known as the encounter stage, in which I recognized not only that I was Black, but that I had lived through many painful and formative experiences specifically because I was Black. After that, I immersed myself in owning this identity, and being proud of it, and not concerning myself with what others thought I was, or whether they thought I was enough.

My new reality, however, is one of understanding what it means to be biracial Black. Because I do have many privileges not bestowed upon Black people. I recognize that I do not experience a lot of racial discrimination placed upon those who present as Black, and that I must do my part to ensure those voices are heard and that I am listening.

I continue to learn more about my Cape Verdean culture, I listen to the stories of others who have experienced life similarly to me. I spend time trying to find events, activities, communities in which people of color will surround me, so that I may immerse myself and my family into environments where I am safe, where I can connect with others, and where I can listen to their stories."

Lauren Enos
MSW Intern

"How do I celebrate Black History Month? I have to admit that I am in a learning stage. For a long time, I did not know the importance of celebrating the contributions of each culture to this country. But today, I know it is essential to value and honor each culture. I celebrate this month by advocating for each student so that their culture and legacy are respected in our schools. I created a space where they can share with others who they are. But the most important is I admit that I have a lot to learn, but I am willing to educate myself, so my future generations love and respect others every day."

Monica Zavala
SWCC Site Coordinator