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.


BCBSM Foundation Grant

September 1, 2021

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

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

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

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

Support 115 New Matches, Match4Match



“It’s finally happening! My dream!” ANTHONY, a fourth grader, had been anxiously waiting for a mentor for two years. Now that he found his match, he is excited to practice his English one-on-one without fear of embarrassment or failure.



With your help, we found Anthony’s match, as well as one for 114 other students like:

TREZURE, an active and social 1st grader, who loves dancing, volleyball and softball was matched with Rachel, a certified personal trainer. Together they love to play outside, building Lego towers, and reading books at our newest site, Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center.

KOMANI, a kind and playful 2nd grader, had been on the waitlist for two years at Burton Elementary. He loves basketball and was looking for a strong male role model. After an extensive search, we matched him with a former mentor and father of four, Eric. Together they play sports, games, and are goal setting!

We said “yes” to these kids but matching them with a mentor is just the beginning. We need your help to ensure students like Anthony, Trezure, and Komani receive ongoing match support that enables them to navigate the larger systems and effectively advocate for them and their families. You have the power to help unlock their potential, match4match.

Will you join us?

DONATE NOW


Wyoming Community Foundation Supports Expansion

By Rachel Humphreys

The Wyoming Community Foundation has awarded Affinity Mentoring a $2,750 grant to support expansion to Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center in Wyoming, MI. This award will be combined with the support from Molina Healthcare, Steelcase Foundation, and the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to:

  • Recruit, screen, train, and match 30 mentors with a student
  • Stock the Mentor Center with games, activities, crafts, books, and other resources
  • Provide ongoing match support to retain and support students and their mentors

So far, 17 kindergarteners and first graders have been matched with a mentor, but there is still a need. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, apply here.

The Wyoming Community Foundation,  a regional affiliate of Grand Rapids Community Foundation, evaluates local needs and opportunities and looks to fund projects that address the areas of art & culture, community development, education, environment, health, or social needs.


If you or your organization would like to support Affinity’s expansion to Wyoming please contact rhumphreys@affinitymentoring.org or check out our Community Partners Page.

Mars Hill Impact Tour

Join Affinity Mentoring for an evening to reflect on our journey to independence and future growth. The Mars Hill community has played a significant role in building, sustaining, and championing our mission to lift up children in a supportive network.

Come witness firsthand, the impact of your contributions of service and financial support. As a compelling force for good, we want to thank you for your devotion to the Burton families. There will be refreshments, a tour of the Burton Mentor Center, and a short presentation to share the measurable change you have made and where we’re headed next.

Date: Thursday, October 17, 2019
Time: 6pm-7:30pm
Location: Burton Elementary

RSVP HERE