DEI 301 Training: Meet the Panelists

April 2022

DEI 301 Training | Wednesday, April 27 6-8pm

This is a hyper-local panel focused on anti-racism in education and mentoring. This is a brave, healthy, inquisitive space for us to dive deeper into how race impacts education in our community, and the individual and community level steps that we can take to support all students succeeding. We will have specific tools and ideas for how mentors can support their mentees. Before and during the event attendees will be able to submit questions for the panel members to answer.

RSVP Here

We are grateful for the Steelcase Foundation whose grant has made it possible for this training to be free and widely available for AM partners.

Meet the Panelists

Rafael Castanon (he/him)

Rafael Castanon is the partner engagement manager at Health Net since December 2019, working with Health Net partners to meet patients SDOH needs through navigation assistance. He graduated from GVSU in 2009 with a degree in Sociology. Rafael has worked in project management at Kimberly-Clark Professional focused on safety and continuous improvement. Rafael transitioned to Legal Specialist at Spectrum Health in 2014. Rafael worked in the legal department and the development of Spectrum Health policies, procedures and board governance. 

Rafael has also been an active member of the local community serving on the board for the Creston Neighborhood Association in 2013, Grand Rapids Board of Zoning appeals in 2015 and one of the co-founders of the West Michigan Latino Network. 

Alex Kuiper (he/him)

Alex Kuiper and English Language Learner Specialist for grades 3 through 5 at Godfrey-Lee Public Schools. In addition to his work as an ELL Specialist, Alex is the founding co-chair of the Godfrey-Lee Equity Steering Committee. Through this committee, Alex has worked with staff, students, parents and community stakeholders to both assess the current status of GLPS, as well as to create opportunities for growth in the areas of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Alex is a certified Equity Literacy trainer through the Equity Literacy Institute out of Virginia, and also has worked with Learning for Justice (formally Teaching Tolerance) on creating safe spaces for dialogue in both the classroom and workplace, as well as training on embedding social justice standards into the core curriculum. 

Kyle Lim (he/him)

Kyle is deeply passionate about supporting communities of color organizing for social change. He has experience in building organizational coalitions to support grassroots
movements against gentrification, police violence and education justice. He strongly believes in the power of radical imaginations that allow communities and organizations to find solutions to problems outside of dominant ways of thinking and doing.


Dr. Brandy Lovelady Mitchell

Dr. Brandy Lovelady Mitchell is the progeny of the greater Grand Rapids Area. Grounded in her lived experiences and her community-focused parents’ love and human- centered values, Dr. Brandy Lovelady Mitchell has become a formidable lifetime advocate, leader, and educator; she has worked feverishly on initiatives, structures and policies that yield more inclusive growth, strong communities, quality public education, and equitable systems that honor and maximize human potential.

She began her career at what is now Kent County’s Network 180, connecting children and families to mental health and substance abuse services. From there she took her love of children to the most logical place – our public schools, as a School Counselor, Guidance Classroom Teacher, Consultant and Principal. Dr. Lovelady-Mitchell made innovative and inclusive strides as a regional leader at Kent Intermediate School District. She is now serving as Michigan Education Association’s founding Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In these positions, Brandy created and facilitated engaging and restorative programs like Butterflies, Nurtured Seeds, Boys-to-Men and Educators of the Yam.

Dr. Mitchell recently became elected to the Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees. She enjoys spending her free time with her family, reading, and attempting to learn golf, which comes at the expense, unfortunately, of her husband’s bent and battered golf clubs.

Erika VanDyke (she/ella) 

Erika was born in Bogotá, Colombia and has lived in Grand Rapids for most of her life. She has been an Affinity mentor at the Godfrey Lee Early Childhood Center since January 2021, regularly participates in the Latina Network of West Michigan, and serves as the communications coordinator for the Latino Community Coalition.  Erika works as program officer at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation facilitating community committees of high school, Latinx, Black, and LGBTQ grantmakers, and supports the advocacy arm of the Foundation’s equitable education strategy.  She is also part of the Urban Core Collective team, working as project manager for their Transformational Leadership Program.  Erika holds bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Women and Gender Studies from Grand Valley State University, and a master’s degree in Community Psychology from Michigan State University. 

DEI 201 Training for Mentors, Partners, and Team

This training is a 201 training; we highly recommend that if you have never attended any professional, intentional anti-racism training that you first attend the 101 training offered on 2/23 before attending this 201 training.

This training will be led by:

  • Christine Mwangi: CEO and Founder of Grounded In Equity, President and CEO of Be A Rose, member of the Affinity Mentoring Board of Directors, and KDL Director of Fund Development.

This is a brave, healthy, inquisitive space for us to dive deeper into how race impacts education in our community, and the individual and community level steps that we can take to support all students succeeding. We will have specific tools and ideas for how mentors can support their mentees.

We will allow up to 35 individuals to participate in person on a first come first serve basis. Individuals will also be able to choose to participate virtually, with a cap at 50 total individuals both in-person and online.

If you have any questions about this training, please feel free to contact Cassandra at ckiger@affinitymentoring.org. We are grateful for the Steelcase Foundation whose grant has made it possible for this training to be free and widely available for AM partners.

DEI 101 Training for Affinity Mentors, Partners, and Team

This training is a 101 training; we highly recommend that if you have never attended any professional, intentional anti-racism training that you join us this evening to learn and grow together.

This training will be led by:

  • Vanessa Jimenez: Founder/CEO of Mezcla Mosaic Collaborative, and Executive Director of the Latina Network of West Michigan; and
  • Marlene Kowalski-Braun: GVSU Associate Vice President for Enrollment Development Deputy Inclusion and Equity Officer

This is a brave, healthy, inquisitive space for individuals to begin thinking about how other’s racial life experiences might be different from our own, and why it matters in education and mentoring.

We will allow up to 35 individuals to participate in person on a first come first serve basis. Individuals will also be able to choose to participate virtually, with a cap at 50 total individuals both in-person and online.

If you have any questions about this training, please feel free to contact Cassandra at ckiger@affinitymentoring.org. We are grateful for the Steelcase Foundation whose grant has made it possible for this training to be free and widely available for AM partners.

New Diversity + Inclusion Workshop for Mentors

By Rachel Lopez

Affinity Launches “Learning and Growing Together Series”
A discussion on race, culture, and inclusion in the mentoring relationship.

The goal of this workshop is for mentors to grow in their cultural intelligence and ability to use their expanded understanding to navigate cultural, experiential, racial, and other differences with their mentees successfully.

This will be an engaging and interactive session that deals with topics such as: cultural intelligence, cross-cultural communication, implicit bias, and healing racism.



Our goal is that attendees will walk away with:

  • increased cultural intelligence
  • elevated morale and energy
  • better communication and problem solving strategies
  • empowered to be even more effective mentors

All current mentors are encouraged to attend one of the three following training dates [a meal will be provided] :

  • Wednesday, August 7th [5:30pm-8:30pm] at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan 
  • Saturday, November 9th [9am-1pm] at Mars Hill Bible Church 
  • Saturday, February 8th [9am-1pm] at Mars Hill Bible Church 
  • REGISTER NOW [Mentors Only]


    About the Speaker
    This workshop will be led by Julian Newman, Founder/CEO of Culture Creative, who consults across the nation with organizations on the integration of cultural awareness. He is recognized as a creative and inspirational speaker/leader/consultant in the areas of organizational diversity and cultural agility initiatives. Julian holds a CQ Certificate through the Cultural Intelligence Center, is a certified facilitator for the Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion, a member of the Urban Core Collective Transformational Leaders Program, and was named to the Great Lakes Multi-Ethnic Regional Team to facilitate racial reconciliation and diversity training in Michigan faith communities.

    About the Series

    This series is part of Affinity Mentoring’s larger mission to be a more culturally responsive organization. Funds to provide this training were provided by Herman Miller Cares and Steelcase Foundation grants.