Dollar General Literacy Foundation Awards Affinity New Grant

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded Affinity Mentoring a $3,000 grant to support youth literacy. This local grant award is part of more than $160 million in grants awarded to nonprofit organizations, libraries and schools across the 44 states that Dollar General serves.

Reading proficiency by 3rd grade is the most important indicator of high school graduation and career success. In 2017, 3rd grade M-STEP data for Kent County indicates that 48.6% of students have achieved proficiency. To help fill this gap, Affinity Mentoring is working alongside, schools, local businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals to lift up students in a supportive network.

The $3,000 grant will be used to support Affinity’s newest mentoring site at Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center in Wyoming, MI. The grant will aid in Affinity’s expansion and build capacity to recruit, train, and match more volunteers to be a caring, positive mentor and literacy support.

Approximately 30-40 new volunteers will be recruited, screened and trained in both mentoring and the fundamentals of early literacy. The volunteers will be matched with a student in Kindergarten, 1st or 2nd grade. The mentor will work in collaboration with the teacher and Site Coordinator to support the student in developing his/her literacy skills. The program will be evaluated by looking at number of matches involved, student achievement, student attendance and social emotional skill development. 

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $168 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping more than 10 million individuals learn to read, prepare for the high school equivalency, or learn English. 

The Godfrey-Lee site is still in need of more support, you can help!

Local Mothers Group Donates 100+ Diverse Books

By: Rachel Lopez

March is #ReadingMonth! We know that reading is powerful. Books allow students to step into another world, reflect on their own life, and be inspired for the future.

However, 85% of books feature White Americans [1].

The majority of students we serve are children of color which is why we are intentional about purchasing books that reflect and celebrate diverse communities.

Diverse stories encourages self-reflection among readers and creates a sense of comfort. People like to see themselves and identify with the stories they read [2]. As you can see from the infographic below, there is a large gap in the number of diverse books [3]. It’s up to us as a community to ensure our students are being represented, uplifted, and inspired by the books in our libraries.

Last fall Natalie Hall, from the Greater Grand Rapids Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc (GGRJJOA), toured our Mentor Center. Natalie explains, “GGRJJOA seeks to be an integral part of cultivating positive change and growth within our local communities. Our National and local level organization focuses on initiatives that equips our members and youth with the power to make a difference in our chapters, communities and in the lives of children around the country! We connected with Affinity Mentoring due to the commonality in your mission in ways that positively affect change and growth in our communities.”

During the tour we discussed the disparity in children’s literature featuring characters of color. Natalie decided that she and the mothers of GGRJJOA would help us tackle that challenge by pledging to donate 100 books featuring students of color by March (Reading Month).

(L-R) – Natalie Hall, Tracey Brame, La’Leatha Spillers, Veronica Bradford, and Lisa Oliver-King

For the past few months Natalie, along with 20 mothers of her local chapter, have been actively collecting and purchasing books filled with diverse characters to reflect, inspire, and celebrate our students! Together, they collected over 100 books featuring characters of color for Affinity Mentoring!

The books vary by reading level (K-8th) and include fiction, non-fiction, and Spanish language books!

We know that it’s up to us as a community to ensure our students are being represented, uplifted, and inspired by the books in our libraries. Thank you GGRJJOA for stepping up as community leaders to ensure our students can see themselves reflected in our libraries!

Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated is a membership organization of mothers with children ages 2-19, dedicated to nurturing future African-American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty.

If you’d like to donate diverse books or create a service project that supports Affinity please contact

[1] Thomas, Ebony Elizabeth (2016). “Stories Still Matter: Rethinking the Role of Diverse Children’s Literature Today”. Journal of Language Arts94 (2): 112–120.

[2] Wopperer, Emily (2011). “Inclusive Literature in the Library and the Classroom”(PDF). Knowledge Quest39 (3): 26–34. Retrieved 7 November 2018.

[3] Reflection Press (2017). “Children’s Books as a Radical Act.”

Marissa and Nancy’s Story

A Mentor Story: Marissa and Nancy
By Rachel Lopez

Nancy quietly slides into the seat next to me, she timidly looks up and asks me my name. I tell her my name is Rachel and that I work for Affinity Mentoring. She immediately looks more relieved. I tell her that I want to learn more about her experience in the mentor program.

Nancy’s smile widens as proudly tells me that she just beat her mentor playing Chutes and Ladders. Nancy, a 3rd grader at Burton Elementary comes out of her shell when she’s around her mentor, Marissa.

Marissa admires Nancy because “she accomplishes everything she sets her mind to.” She describes Nancy as “funny, energetic, and determined.” Nancy agrees, nodding and giggling, “I get crazy when I eat a lot of cookies.”

The both look at each other and laugh as they remember when Nancy finished the March Reading Challenge and earned vanilla-cream cookies. The lesson learned from that day was to read books before eating a plate-full of cookies and getting a sugar-rush. Nancy adds that she didn’t eat all of the cookies, she brought some home to share with her family.

Nancy might remember the cookies the most, but her teacher notices the difference in her academics. “Last year [Nancy] was at a kindergarten reading level, she had no foundational native language, and was unable to count by 2’s,” explains Ms. Carbone, a third-grade teacher at Burton Elementary.

Her weekly mentoring sessions with Marissa helped her immensely.

“By the end of the year Nancy had gone up 10 points on her MAP test and this year she has passed her unit math tests with 90% or higher! I attribute this to [her mentor] Marissa. She teaches her compassion, patience, and loyalty. Now she is a confident, thriving, and mindful advocate for herself and others,” exclaims Ms. Carbone.

This was Marissa’s first year as a mentor and she has already signed up to come back for fall. She recalls her brother (a mentor to another elementary student) telling her that she would be a great mentor for Affinity and that she’d love it. She happily reports, “he was right.”


If this sounds like something you think you’d be good at and enjoy (or you think you might know someone that would) check out How to Become a Mentor.

Mentoring not your thing, but you think it’s pretty cool? Check out How to Become Monthly Sponsor to support matches like Marissa and Nancy.