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Mentors help ‘bring out the brilliance’

Walk through the Affinity Mentoring area in the Early Childhood Center and you’ll see plenty of children and adults reading, coloring, eating lunch and just sharing a friendly moment together.

Like mentor Anjie Gleisner, who is matched with kindergartner Nicole Dela Torre Gomez.

“I have never done this before, but it’s something I’ve always been interested in doing,” said Gleisner, a branch manager at the Kent District Library.

“I work full time, and recently my employer encouraged us to go out and do this within the community on work time. With the mentoring program, a lot of it is having a dedicated adult available to help out with anything kids might need help with regarding school, but also to be a buddy and someone to talk to every week.

“Because I’m a librarian, I’m really passionate about reading and have been bringing books from the library and we’ve been reading together. I’m really enjoying it so far.”

Rachel Humphreys, development director at Affinity Mentoring, said their model is unique, partnering with organizations, schools, corporations and individuals to provide high quality, culturally responsive mentoring to school-age children.

“Each partnership is developed to meet the needs of the students as well as the needs of the partner,” Humphreys said. “Our school partners support Affinity by providing physical space in the school as well as collaborating around which students to match with a mentor and inviting Affinity staff and mentors to continue to participate in the community/school team.”

Affinity currently partners with Burton Elementary School, Burton Middle School, Southwest Community Campus and Godfrey-Lee ECC. The organization hopes to match 25-35 students in its first year at the ECC and nearly 300 across all four sites.

Mentor Rachel Clousing works with first grader Trezure Griffith through Affinity Mentoring

Grant-funded Partnerships

The Steelcase Foundation made the mentoring program possible last spring with a $75,000 expansion grant, which consists of $25,000 per year for three years.

The funds support mentor relationships and serve as seed money to open the fourth site, at the ECC.

Mentors and program staff work together with parents, teachers and administrative staff to improve students’ literacy skills, social emotional learning, self-esteem, leadership skills, attendance and academic achievement, Humphreys explained.

She said their goal is for mentors to be role models, tutors and friends.

Superintendent Kevin Polston said Godfrey-Lee Public Schools believes in the impact mentoring can have on a child’s education and their overall well-being.

“One of our core values is community, the belief that it takes a village to raise a child,” Polston said. “We are honored to begin a partnership … to bring out the brilliance in each child.”

New mentor Rachel Clousing said she loves hanging out with kids and wanted to give back by volunteering.

“I love it; it’s really fun,” said Clousing, a personal trainer.

Her mentee, Trezure Griffith, also enjoys her time with Clousing.

“It’s good,” Trezure said. “I was playing with Play-Doh and eating lunch down here. After I ate lunch, we raced each other on the playground.”

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Cris Greer
Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more.

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