Affinity Launches New Middle School Mentoring Steering Committee

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.

Have Questions? Call Us

616-209-8435