Reaching out, connecting in time of crisis

Wyoming couple continues outreach to area youth

Mimi Goodson and mom Stacey Goodson have fun with selfies while staying at home

Wyoming residents Stacey and Julian Goodson are used to going a hundred different directions at the same time, busy with leading youth programs, sports and coaching.

They help high school students develop work skills, attend athletic events, volunteer as foster care advocates. They are busy and involved.

Now, with the brakes slammed to a halt, they are navigating a new daily schedule of working from home and staying in, spending more time together — and making sure they stay connected to the young people in their lives they care so deeply about.

Julian, a youth development specialist who works with Wyoming High School students, is working hard to maintain relationships.

Selfie time

“The very existence of my job is very hands on,” he said. “It’s hard for me to gauge where a student really is (mentally) unless it’s face to face,” he said.

At home with them is daughter Mimi Goodson, a Wyoming High School junior, and Troy, 23. The Goodsons also communicate with foster children they have welcomed into their home over the years, including son Donnie Alford, whom School News Network profiled as a Grad with Grit in 2017.

Normally, Stacey would be coaching girls’ track at Wyoming High School, and Julian would be coaching girls’ basketball through the West Michigan Drive AAU Program. Mimi would be running track and playing basketball. Stacey is also Grace Christian University women’s basketball coach, and just saw a heartbreaking end to the final tournament.

Facing the realization that so much has changed so quickly has been disappointing, and that’s an understatement, Stacey said. She’s trying to stay active and optimistic, walking outside, continuing to connect and help others.

Stacey and Julian Goodson have had to slow down from working and coaching

(Virtually) Reaching Out

The Goodsons’ perspective goes beyond what’s happening in their household. They both work for the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, a program through Bethany Christian Services. Julian focuses on leadership and job skill development with youth and Stacey operates the program’s Rising Grinds café, where students work to gain experience that will hopefully lead to job placement.

As part of his job, Goodson runs Lead the Pack Athletic Council, a group of about 20 Wyoming High School student athletes who meet every Tuesday morning before school. “Our programming doesn’t stop now,” he said.

He sees it as critical to reach out to the students on Facebook Messenger, and is planning Zoom virtual meetings to talk about leadership, life and work skills, and relationships. He is also helping students simply cope with where they are emotionally. 

Several of his students were on the school boys’ basketball team, which had made it to the district championship game the week athletic events, sports and activities statewide were postponed or cancelled. The team is OK Gold Conference champion, with a 20-2 overall season.

“Right now it’s just, ‘How are you doing?’” Julian said of supporting students. “A good majority I am just trying to meet where they are at (emotionally). They can’t get past the last game they played.”

It’s especially hard for seniors. “The Wyoming (basketball) run those seniors were in the middle of was something special,” he said. “It hurts. …They are trying to hold each other up.”

‘A big pocket of the community is afraid to ask for help or don’t know where to ask.’

— Stacey Goodson

Stacey faced a similar anguish as Grace’s women’s basketball coach — the cancellation of the NCAA Division II tournament, for which her team had made the Final Four and were in it to win it. 

“Heartbreaking is the best word to cover all of it. They’ve worked so incredibly hard and had a real chance of winning,” she said. Her heart especially aches for her four seniors.

Julian said his student athletes just want to play ball, run track, be with their teams. He tells them to spend this time developing their craft. “They are chomping at the bit to get back to their respective sports but they just can’t.”

To those looking to play at the college level, he’s encouraging them to finish their highlight tapes, make lists of colleges they would like to attend, clean up their social media and stay active.

And he tells them to stay connected — call each other, offer help and have conversations.

Realizing Needs

Stacey and the Rising Grinds staff are making sure student workers (who have earned their GEDs and are entering the workforce) can get by for now. They’ve donated to them basics such as laundry detergent, soap, shampoo and other necessities.

The Goodsons both have a background in social work, and know how much many families and students in the community struggle. Stacey said she’s impressed with schools’ efforts to step up and distribute food. She knows, though, how big needs are.

“A big pocket of the community is afraid to ask for help or don’t know where to ask,” she said. “I do have a huge concern about students in our community that will be hungry over the next couple weeks.”

She’s also worried about people’s mental health, which affects physical health. Poor mental health can suppress the immune system, making it harder to fight off illness.

Selfie time

Passing the Time

As for daughter Mimi, she’s been “kinda bored.”

“I don’t really understand it, but I know enough about it to stay home,” she said.

“The virus, if I got it, I would be OK, but if I passed it to someone with cancer or asthma or old people they could die.”

While she would normally be running track and playing basketball, she’s been watching Netflix, painting, talking to friends on Facetime and other apps, and making videos.

“I miss my teachers surprisingly. I don’t miss the work, but I miss them.” 

She said she looks forward to when she can just “be annoying to my friends at school every day.”

Small Inspirations

Julian is spending his days babysitting his 4-year-old twin grandsons, children of his adult daughter, Janelle, who is still working (in property management) but her child care is closed. He said he’s rediscovered Sesame Street and the fact that preschoolers have boundless energy. The boys give him perspective.

“They don’t stop running. Even when the world stops for us, they keep going. That’s where I am drawing my energy and purpose.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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