There is no doubt that a large portion of the caseload of Kent County courts involves persons arrested with clear mental health issues, and that the system in which those persons are handled is burdensome for the courts, not constructive for the arrested, and — ultimately — often do not make the community safer.
But a new county Mental Health Court program — involving law enforcement, courts and the county’s pubic mental health and substance use disorder services provider, Network 180, aims to change the system for the betterment of all.
On the latest WKTV Journal: In Focus, Network 180’s director of network services Ross Buitendorp talks with program host Ken Norris about a program that substitutes a problem-solving model for traditional criminal court processing.
Also on this episode, Katie Fahey, president and treasurer of Voters Not Politicians, a non-partisan ballot committee seeking to put before voters in 2018 a proposal to end gerrymandering in Michigan, talks about the state’s current system of drawing election district maps and how and why the plan Voters Not Politicians are advocating for would change the redistricting system.
The episode will debut Tuesday, Dec. 5, at 6:30 p.m., and will again air on Thursday, and again next week on the same days and times on WKTV channels but all interviews included in episodes of WKTV Journal: In Focus are also available on YouTube at WKTVVideos.
Just in case you think Kent County’s budget planning process is not big news, consider that its approved 2018 budget of $417 million will be second highest in the area, behind only the City of Grand Rapids’ $528 million budget, and that the county funds the sheriff’s office and courts, social services, the county’s elections, and veterans services.
The Kent County Board of Commissioners voted this week to approve a plan for how the county government will spend more than $356 million in 2018 — with public safety programs gaining the lion’s share at nearly $87 million, followed closely by social services programs at just over $81 million.
The county total budget includes $61 million in “transfers out” funding, which is designated funds for programs such as the Friend of the Court program. And the county’s main discretionary fund for operating and capital expenditures, its general fund, will be about $172 million.
In comparison to the 2018 plan, the county’s actual 2016 total expenditures were about $339 million and its adopted (but not yet completed and actual) expenditures for 2017 were $371 million.
The 2018 General Appropriation Act is on the agenda for approval by the Board of Commissioners at its meeting scheduled for the Nov. 30 — and after a lengthy budgeting process and public hearings, it is expected to be approved.
“It was in some ways a bit easier than many of the budgets (from) previous years in that, especially from 2007, we went through years of declining revenue — property values (and the county’s tax base) were on the decline, thus our property tax revenues declined,” Commissioner Harold Voorhees said to WKTV. “This year that is not so. (But) did that make budget discussions easier? No.”
Voorhees represents county District 8, which is all within the City of Wyoming. This was his 14th year serving on the county’s Finance and Physical Resources Committee.
The other commissioners representing Wyoming and Kentwood include Harold Mast (District 12/Wyoming and Kentwood), Betsy Melton (District 13/Kentwood), Matt Kallman (District 9, mostly the Byron Township but also a small portion of the City of Wyoming) and Stan Ponstein (District 7, the City of Grandville but also a small portion of the City of Wyoming).
Tax millage rate down slightly this year; more coming?
While not successful in this year’s budgeting process, Voorhees also said he plans to continue his outspoken efforts to institute a reduction in next year’s county income from property taxes.
“I was out front in my support of the dedicated millage for the John Ball Zoo and the Grand Rapids Public Museum,” he said. “This new revenue, and along with other savings and increases in revenues, caused me to seek a property tax reduction on Kent County families and all property owners. (But) I had to realize I had started my request for lowering taxes too late in the process for this budget year.”
The county tax millage rate, as proposed for the 2018 budget, is 6.0518 mills, which, according to the county, “is 0.0078 mills less than the millage rate levied for the 2017 budget due to the Headlee roll-back. As a result, Kent County’s total millage rate would be the 14th lowest in Michigan and the third lowest of the 13 counties in the West Michigan Region.”
Sheriff Department leads in increased expenditures
To break down the county’s general fund expenditures of about $172 million, which represents a 3.3 percent increase from the 2017 budget year, according to the county’s budget report. The budget includes operating expenditures of $134.0 million, including capital expenditures of $2.2 million, and $38.3 million to support the operations of other funded programs.
The Sheriff Department’s general fund budget will increase 5.2 percent, from $59.9 million in 2017 to $63.0 million in 2018. The personnel cost in the Sheriff’s budget is up $2.4 million, or 5.3 percent over the current year. This is attributed to general personnel increases and the addition of five correction positions, according to the county.
Some of the other highlights of the 2018 budget, according to the county, are: a Health Department appropriation of $29.2 million which represents a 3.6 percent increase over the 2017 budget; a total Child Care programs budget of $27.7 million that represents a 9.5 percent decrease; and a Circuit Court budget of $17.8 million that represents a 2.2 percent increase.
After a hectic Black Friday, looking for something to do on Shop Local Saturday? The 3rd Annual Cedar Springs Pub Crawl will take place Saturday, Nov. 25, starting at 5 p.m.
Cedar Springs Brewing is the host of the event, with the two other venues in town being The Gun tavern and the American Legion Glen Hill Post 287 — Cedar Springs Brewing has great German beer and food — been there, done that; and I’m a member of the Cedar Springs’ American Legion, so I can vouch for the patriotic local color.
Oh, and by the way, speaking of Shop Local Saturday, CS Brewery’s home brew business next to the pub is have a sale on home brew supplied.
First, always have a designated driver when your pub crawling. But, second, if your more in the mood to get your Beer City Brewsader Passport book stamped, after a visit to Cedar Springs Brewing, there is also a couple of other north-of-Grand Rapids brew pubs worth a visit: the Rockford Brewing Company in … wait for it … Rockford; and the recently relocated and expanded Cellar Brewing Company in Sparta.
“I am a man who likes to cross the t’s and dot the i’s,” said Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley as he watched the poll numbers roll in from the 2017 election results at his evening campaign headquaters at Kentwood’s Paris Cafe & Desserts.
By 8:30 p.m., Kepley had a secure lead of 3 to 1 to his challenger Scott Urbanowski. It was a lead that Kepley never relinquished with him winning his bid for a second term with 2,116 votes to Urbanowski’s 696.
“I am really excited about the next four years,”Kepley said. “I truly love serving the citizens. I love the city, the residents and the neighbors.”
Kepley said he believes it is a team effort of the city managers and department heads who have made the positive decisions to push the city forward and he is excited about seeing the “positive changes we can make in Kentwood” over the next four years.
“Ultimately, I did not convince enough people that Kentwood needed change in the Mayor’s Office and that I was in the best position to make that change,” Urbanowski said in a released statement. “Nevertheless, I’m grateful to everyone who voted, volunteered, or donated in support of this young person with no elected experience or establishment support.
“I am glad that I was able to spark conversations about issues that matter; to help boost interest in local government; and to get to know Kentwood and its people even better.”
Challenger Emily Bridson had to wait a little longer before celebrating her victory last night. Bridson held a 2-to-1 lead over incumbent Gerald DeMaagd for most of the night with her winning the 1st Ward City Commission seat with 890 votes to DeMaagd’s 451.
“I am really excited about this opportunity,” Bridson said from her campaign celebration at Peppino’s South. “I have met so many people and made a lot of new friends. I have a greater understanding of a lot of priorities from what they love about our city and what they would like to see changed. I am going to work on a strategic plan to address those changes.”
Bridson said she is very honored to have gone through this process. “I want to thank Jerry for his service,” Bridson said. “I am excited and looking forward to to working with Mayor Kepley and the commission.”
In statement released this morning, incumbent DeMaagd said:
“Emily Bridson has won the Kentwood 1st Ward City Commission seat by substantial margins. She conducted a textbook campaign, and executed well. She is smart, capable, and deserves the win based on her efforts.
“I think there is a further story here though, given the level of outside influence on both the mayoral and commission races which are officially non-partisan. The pre-election campaign reports filed with Kent County show that 53 of Bridson’s contributors were from other cities outside Kentwood, and only 5 from Kentwood (plus herself). Post-election campaign reports aren’t due until Dec. 7. Allegedly she was endorsed by the UAW (United Auto Workers), although she did not advertise it. On the other hand, the mayoral candidate, Scott Urbanowski’s campaign literature does state that he was ‘ENDORSEDby the Kent County Democratic Party’.
“Although these actions are perfectly legal, it does show the amount of outside interest in what is essentially a local race.
“As a candidate, I received several calls from voters about my position relative to national issues. They say all politics is local… but I think that for Kentwood it’s actually the reverse: All local politics is now national!“
Today, there are over 5,000,000 people living with dementia. They are members of our churches, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our communities. They shop in the same stores we do, dine at the same restaurants, attend the same events, and utilize the same public transportation system. Despite living with dementia, they continue to be vital members of our communities and valued for their contributions. This is the ideal, anyway.
The reality is, for people living with dementia, their world tends to become slowly and consistently smaller, and a lot of this has to do with the difficulty they experience interacting with the world around them. We’ve all come into contact with a person who seems lost, is taking an extremely long time to make a decision, or is ‘holding up the line’ because they are confused about a process. We become exasperated; they become upset, and no one leaves the experience feeling good about ourselves.
While we can go about our day, collecting better experiences, a person with dementia will be reluctant to have that experience again, and will begin to avoid doing anything that may recreate it — shopping for groceries, riding a bus, ordering in a restaurant. They gradually become more isolated, less independent and separated from their communities. The isolation and separation people with dementia experience can actually contribute to the acceleration of their dementia. This isolation takes a great toll on care partners as well. Since they spend most of their time in the company of their loved one, they experience the same isolation and detachment from community.
Dementia Friendly Grand Rapids (DFGR) is part of a national movement working to create aware and supportive ‘Dementia Friends’ throughout all sectors of our community so that people living with dementia can comfortably navigate daily life. DFGR strives to move Grand Rapids toward becoming a more aware, accessible and inclusive city. A dementia-friendly city improves the community for everyone and is more livable through implementation of universal design. Dementia-friendly communities are more attractive, competitive and sustainable when they become more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
We’re learning more everyday about the various dementias, like Alzheimer’s, and the ways we can help people with dementia live fuller, more active and engaged lives, and extend independence and participation in their communities. For this to happen though, everyone needs to work together to create communities where any person, including a person with dementia, can live and thrive. This is dementia friendly.
DFGR’s main focus right now is creating awareness. This is done by teaching people about dementia and helping participants develop practical actions they can use to help someone they may encounter in the community who has dementia. Jennifer VanHorssen, DFGR Program Coordinator, says, “Whether it be the checkout at a grocery store, on the bus, serving coffee at a coffee shop, or at an art or music performance, each of us can be supportive and help people living with dementia feel welcome and included.” In the last year alone, volunteers with Dementia Friendly Grand Rapids have provided over 30 trainings enabling more than 400 people to become new Dementia Friends.
Creating a dementia-friendly city requires participation from all sectors of society — business, local government, transportation, financial institutions, neighborhood associations and faith communities, emergency responders, healthcare and the legal sector. DFGR’s focus for 2017-2018 is business. VanHorssen’s hope is to focus on sub-sectors “like restaurants, grocery stores, hair salons/barber shops, local retail, libraries and other public spaces” where business owners and/or employees are interacting with customers who may have dementia.
Often the slightest shift in our approach to working with a customer who seems indecisive, confused, or unsure of themselves can help them feel safe, supported and empowered. “In a dementia friendly community” VanHorssen cites, “people living with dementia have autonomy, a high quality of life, and are engaged with the community.”
Grand Rapids is experiencing an enormous amount of growth and development – we have the opportunity to do things differently so all Grand Rapids residents and visitors can have autonomy while navigating our city. It begins with awareness. If your business/organization would like to learn about becoming a dementia friend, contact Dementia Friendly Grand Rapids by calling (616) 222-7036 or email email@example.com. You can also learn more about DFGR and the dementia friendly movement on their website: www.dementiafriendlygr.com
With the second weekend of ArtPrize in full swing and people casting last-minute votes for their favorite works of art, Wyoming-Kentwood Community Media’s VOICES: a community history projectpowered by WKTV rolled out the red carpet and welcomed scores of visitors to tour our renovated 1958 Airstream® mobile studio and learn more about the oral history project.
Modeled after the non-profit organization StoryCorps (the nationwide oral history project), VOICEScollects, preserves, and shares the stories of West Michigan people from all backgrounds and beliefs, with a focus on Wyoming, Kentwood and the greater Grand Rapids area.
VOICES is a free public service, offering a comfortable video recording studio with a relaxed atmosphere. High-tech video and audio equipment records the stories of our neighbors, friends and family — any story from anyone — that make up the fabric of our lives and our community. Participants tell their stories of hardships and successes, of what shaped them and their families into the kind of people they are today. Our lives, experiences, joys, sorrows, triumphs and tragedies are what make us all human.
Interviews usually take place between two people who know and care about each other. They can be friends, family or mere acquaintances. At the end of each 40-minute recording session, participants receive a complimentary DVD of their interview. Each recording is also archived with the Library of Congress.
Interviews can be “life reviews,” conducted with people at the end of their careers. Or they can focus on a specific period or a specific event in people’s lives, as with war veterans or survivors of an earthquake, flood or hurricane.
VOICES is available year-round. Our mobile studio will be at ArtPrize Nine again, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6-7 from 10am-8pm*. Thereafter, it will travel to other locations.
The Greater Grand Rapids Area has become a destination for travelers seeking out “Beer City USA” and one of Expedia’s “21 Super Cool US Cities.” With a rise in visitors to the area, what does that mean for locals when it comes to getting around town? If you’ve ever felt frustrated by trying to find parking or other commuting struggles, this is your time to be heard!
The City of Grand Rapids Parking Services and Mobile GR want to know, “What’s Your Commute?” The new parking and mobility census was developed to better understand the community’s values, needs and priorities when commuting. Your feedback will help shape future transportation options. They have set a goal of having 10 percent of trips use alternative modes of transportation, such as bikes or busses and better managing parking demand for the 90 percent who travel via car.
Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit www.communityactionkent.org.
Since 2014, more than 880 mayors, governors, and other state and local officials have answered the call of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, pledging to do all they can to ensure their communities succeed.
Current homeless veterans have been connected to resources to secure housing and future vets can be assured a plan to secure them housing after it is known they are homeless.
On September 26, area agencies working to attain this goal — including the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness, housing providers, federal, state, government officials, veterans, and local partners — celebrated their successes for their part in ensuring that homelessness is both rare and brief for Veterans in Kent County at an awards ceremony on the campus of Calvin College.
has identified all Veterans experiencing homelessness;
provides shelter immediately to any Veteran experiencing unsheltered homelessness who wants it;
provides service-intensive transitional housing only in limited instances;
has capacity to assist Veterans to swiftly move into permanent housing; and
has resources, plans, partnerships, and system capacity in place should any Veteran become homeless or be at risk of homelessness in the future.
“It took a team of dedicated, caring community members to rearrange structures and resources so that Kent County can ensure that no Veteran will remain homeless in our community,” Beech shared. “We must honor those who have served our country and use what we have learned in this process to end homelessness for all populations.”
In a letter proclaiming Kent County reached Functional Zero, Matthew Doherty, the Executive Director of USICH, spoke of the remarkable efforts of the agencies involved.
“We are confident that the infrastructure and systems you have built will ensure that any Veteran experiencing homelessness in Kent County will get the support they need to quickly obtain a permanent home,” Doherty wrote.
“In its efforts to end veteran homelessness, Kent County has done something remarkable that will serve as a catalyst for other communities working toward this common goal,” MSHDA Executive Director Earl Poleski said. “The State stands ready to assist with the financial, technical and collaborative resources that can help end veteran homelessness here and across our great state.”
Commissioner Tom Antor accepted an award on behalf of the Kent County Board of Commissioners.
“The County staff has shown a great dedication to helping veterans and ending homelessness,” he said.
According to Antor, more than 170 Veterans Affairs Housing Vouchers have been provided in Kent County in recent years.
A status report on a planned millage renewal for The Rapid regional public transit system took centerstage at the Wyoming-Kentwood Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Government Matters meeting, which brings together government leaders of all levels to discuss issues of importance and presents those discussions through WKTV’s live, delayed and on-demand broadcasts.
At the Monday, Sept. 11, meeting at Wyoming City Hall, representatives of The Rapid explained some of the details of its millage renewal request set to appear on the Nov. 7 ballot. Among the points made were that it is not a new millage — increasing local property taxes — but the renewal of an existing millage which was passed in 2011; that the transit system, like may systems nationwide, is experiencing a decrease in ridership; and that the loss of local financial support would lead to the loss of state matching-funds support.
The bottom line, as explained by Peter Varga, Chief Operating Officer of The Rapid, is that “there is no good recovery” from the service cuts required due to the loss of local and state funds.
“We would start thinking about cutting services radically,” Varga said. “We would start having public hearings on how much service would be lost. Frankly, the prospect would be dissolution of the regional framework for transit.”
Among the other multi-level government discussions topics at the meeting were the value of the $30 million spend annually for the Pure Michigan tourism advertising program, the county Friend of the Court system and its working with child support problems, and the Secretary of State’s new efforts to implement the Federally required “Real ID” compliant state drivers licenses.
The Chamber’s Government Matters meetings include representatives of the cities of Kentwood and Wyoming, Kent County, local Michigan House of Representatives and Senate, and, often, representatives of other regional, State of Michigan and Federal elected officials. The next meeting will be Oct. 9 at Kentwood City Hall.
The meetings are on the second Monday of each month, starting at 8 a.m. WKTV Journal will produce a highlight story after the meeting. But WKTV also offers replays of the Monday meetings on the following Wednesday at 7 p.m. on Cable Channel 25. Replays are also available online at WKTV’s government meetings on-demand page (wktv.viebit.com) and on the chamber’s Facebook page.
ArtPrize, the independently organized art competition recognized as the world’s largest annual public art event, today announced 2017 programming for ArtPrize Labs, sponsored by Grand Valley State University, Herman Miller Cares, and Switch—which will encourage ArtPrize visitors to not only experience the art, but also to unleash their creative spirits at the ninth annual event and create works of their own. ArtPrize Nine is slated to return to Grand Rapids, Michigan from September 20-October 8, 2017.
“ArtPrize provides opportunities for people of all ages to discover, learn and create in a city transformed by art and overflowing with creative energy ,” said Becca Guyette, ArtPrize Education Director. “Through ArtPrize Labs, we seek to offer hands-on contemporary art experiences—and spark the curiosity of the next generation of art lovers.”
Returning for a third year are the ArtPrize Labs Studios—with two locations for ArtPrize Nine, inside the ArtPrize HUB/HQ and at Rosa Parks Circle. The drop-in studios provide materials for visitors of all ages to rest, unwind and explore their creative inspiration in a self-directed way. The studio at Rosa Parks Circle will be open daily from Noon-6 p.m., and the HUB/HQ location from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., daily during the event.
Additionally, ArtPrize Labs will once again feature Studio Events with hands-on activities at Rosa Parks Circle each Saturday during the event from Noon-3 p.m. Each event will feature different creative experiments including, a large collaborative cardboard installation, a 20-foot sharpie mural and a paint catapult.
On September 23, visitors can join ArtPrize Labs and Herman Miller Cares in building a gigantic temporary cardboard installation at Rosa Parks Circle. On September 30, ArtPrize Labs and Newell Brands will present a fun-filled afternoon of drawing and coloring, with visitors working together to create a large-scale Sharpie® mural. On October 7, Air Zoo will join ArtPrize Labs to send paint flying from two catapult systems, launching paint-covered objects at a canvas to create colorful, collaborative impact art.
Returning for a second year is the ArtPrize Labs Mobile Workshop, presented by Herman Miller Cares. The ArtPrize Labs Mobile Workshop, which unfolds from a bicycle, will tour around the ArtPrize district throughout the 19-day event—bringing pop-up art-making activities to thousands of visitors, all done with repurposed materials.
Visitors are also invited to attend ArtPrize Labs Partner Programs, with a variety of hands-on art making programs produced by leading arts and cultural organizations throughout the 19-day event. ArtPrize Labs Partners include Artists Creating Together, GRKids.com, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, and Lions & Rabbits.
Complete details on ArtPrize Labs events and programming is available at artprize.org/learn.
Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) recently announced that they signed an agreement to purchase nearly 200 homes in Grand Rapids and Lansing from a Chicago developer. ICCF will work with other affordable housing advocates to make sure these homes remain affordable for individuals and families with limited incomes.
While Kent County—and Grand Rapids, in particular—is seeing tremendous population and economic growth, it is creating a housing shortage that is driving up the cost to buy or rent a place to live. In many cases, people who have lived in neighborhoods for decades can no longer afford to live there.
There are several agencies in Kent County that are working to ensure that all residents have access to affordable housing and thriving communities. When the broad community is engaged in addressing the urgent need for adequate, affordable housing, we all become less vulnerable and more resilient:
Kent County Housing Commission provides rental assistance to families on extremely low incomes through a voucher system. They also educate property owners and the community on the need for affordable housing.
LINC Uplinks community organizations with real estate developers to “help neighbors, business owners, and community stakeholders realize their visions for the community.”
Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit www.communityactionkent.org.
June 24th was an action-packed day on the grounds of Grace Bible College, and the weather couldn’t have been any better. Happy people, food, ice cones and family friendly activities brought the community and businesses together with firefighters, police officers and other first responders.
It was all part of ‘Boots and Badges’, an annual event hosted by the Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce to honor and show appreciation for the area’s first responders. The idea is to get people connected with their local law enforcement outside of an emergency or distress call.
A fun-filled game of kickball between firefighters and police was just one of the highlights. Families posed for photos with mascots of the White Caps and Drive #1, hit the button on the dunk tank, competed in 9 Square (a volleyball-type game), checked out the vehicles used by first responders, and even became “honorary” first responders, complete with hats and badges.
By Tara Hernandez, Gerald R. Ford International Airport
All passengers traveling through the Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) are now being processed in one consolidated security checkpoint, the focal point of GFIA’s Gateway Transformation Project. Construction on the checkpoint was completed Saturday evening, and opened for passengers on Sunday, June 25. Concourse B passengers were processed through the area starting on Sunday, June 4th, but now both Concourse A & B passengers are being screened at the new checkpoint.
The checkpoint is one part of the Airport’s $45 million Gateway Transformation Project that also includes new terrazzo flooring, lighting fixtures, new restrooms & nursing rooms, family restrooms, pre- and post-security business centers, new retail and food & beverage space, and much more. Different portions of the construction will open throughout the summer with phase one set to be complete in late August. Construction on the Gateway Transformation Project began in December 2015.
“We could not have asked for a smoother transition bringing all of our passengers together in our new consolidated checkpoint,” said GFIA President & CEO Jim Gill. “We have to thank our engineering staff for their tireless efforts, and our partners at the TSA for assisting in this transition. It really is a collaborative effort to pull off projects like this, and we’re already hearing from our passengers about how much they appreciate the new space.”
The new consolidated security checkpoint allocates TSA screening in one central location to fully utilize staffing, and make screening lines faster and more efficient.
A post-security Starbucks is set to open Friday, June 30, along with a redesigned Kids Play Area in the pre-security area.
Because some of the construction will have an impact on passenger operations throughout the terminal building, there will be updates, maps, photos, and other helpful tips listed on GFIA’s website: www.grr.org/construction. Signs and airport ambassadors are also available in the terminal building to assist with any passenger needs or directions.
Passengers are still encouraged to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before their scheduled flight due to high volumes of traffic with the busy summer and holiday weekend ahead.
One of the resources that allows ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) to address the most urgent needs of Kent County residents is its diverse board. CAA boards are made up of representatives from the private and public sectors as well as consumers of their services.
Public and private sector representatives bring a wealth of experience, resources and community connections to the board. They represent government, business, religious organizations, welfare, education, law enforcement or other groups and interests in the community served.
Consumers provide meaningful input and insights that are essential to fighting the causes and symptoms of poverty.
By bringing together this diverse group of individuals, the CAA board can:
Help ACSET CAA better understand the needs of the community
Ensure ACSET CAA focuses on the greatest needs of low-income families in Kent County
Make a difference for everyone who seeks the services of ACSET CAA
ACSET Community Action is currently seeking new consumer sector members. Consumer representatives must be low-income and qualify for a CAA service at the time of their appointment.
This is a great opportunity to make your voice heard, gain leadership experience and help others.
Questions? To learn more or find out if you qualify, contact Sarah at 616.336.2228.
People wearing bright red t-shirts are canvasing some of the neighborhoods and festivals in Grand Rapids starting this June – but they’re not stumping for a political candidate: They’re hoping that homes in the city will Get the Lead Out!
Armed with free lead-testing kits and brochures, these team members from the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan are letting people know about federal funds available to make lead abatement possible.
“Lead lurks in the paint of homes built before 1978 – and most houses in the City of Grand Rapids were built before that year. Paint flakes and peels, and when improperly scraped or sanded off, dangerous lead dust can be kicked up,” said Paul Haan, executive director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan and gubernatorial appointee to the State of Michigan’s Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission.
That flaking, peeling lead paint and dust — ingested or breathed in — can be dangerous to anyone. But lead is especially toxic to babies, children and pregnant women. Lead poisoning can cause permanent brain damage and other health issues. (See GTLO 2017 Fact Sheet for more information on the dangers of lead.)
It doesn’t take much lead to create a toxic situation. One gram of lead dust is enough to make 25,000 square feet of flooring hazardous for young children, according to Haan.
“We’re talking an amount as small as the equivalent of a packet of Sweet’N Low — just that small amount is enough to contaminate a dozen homes in Grand Rapids,” said Haan. “The good news is that lead poisoning can be prevented, and there’s funding to help people get the lead out safely with professionals trained in lead abatement.”
The funding is through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The City of Grand Rapids administers the grant locally and partners with the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, the Kent County Health Department, LINC, and the Rental Property Owners Association to facilitate the Get the Lead out! program. June has been designated “Healthy Homes Month” by HUD but team members will be encouraging applications as long as funding lasts.
The most common types of work done to remove lead hazards from homes are repairing or replacing windows, and re-painting or replacing siding.
Funding is available for eligible homeowners and landlords. Anyone living in the City of Grand Rapids in a home built before 1978 is encouraged to contact the Healthy Homes Coalition to learn about eligibility. For more information, please call the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan at 616.241.3300 or visit www.GetTheLeadOutGR.org. Or, contact the City of Grand Rapids Community Development Department at 616.456.3030 or Doug Stek, Housing Rehabilitation Supervisor, 616.456.3672.
Well, the stats are in from the big Earth Day event at the 2017 Community Clean Up Day in the City of Wyoming and they are nothing short of amazing. Wyoming residents showed up in droves — the stats speak for themselves:
Approximately 400 vehicles went through the site
15,000 pounds of electronics recycling — including 140 Tube TVs — were collected
5,096 pounds of household hazardous waste was dropped off
4,400 pounds of metal were recycled
43 dumpsters were filled and
60 tons of refuse hauled away by Plummer’s Disposal
Five Godwin and Lee High School students pitched in, and so did nine family and friends of City of Wyoming employees. And 44 City of Wyoming employees were on hand to make sure the big Earth Day event was a success.
By Mary Eilleen Lyon, Grand Valley State University
The annual economic impact that Grand Valley State University (GVSU)has on the region is estimated at $816 million. Grand Valley issued its yearly tri-county economic impact report during its April 28 Board of Trustees meeting held at the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.
The economic impact report covers Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties and used 2015-2016 data. Grand Valley employs more than 3,600 people and enrolls more than 25,400 students who spend money and pay taxes in the region.
Some additional highlights of this year’s report include:
New construction and renovations pumped more than $83 million into the local economy in 2016, creating more than 1,760 trade and construction jobs.
Construction of the $37.5 million Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall will be finished in May 2018 and will expand Grand Valley’s health campus in Grand Rapids.
On the Allendale Campus, an addition to the Performing Arts Center will add 44,000-square-feet of additional space to the existing building. The $20-million project will be finished in August.
Grand Valley alumni now number more than 106,000 and nearly half are living or working in West Michigan’s tri-county area.
The Committee to Honor César E. Chávez has partnered with the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Unity Committee to host the 2017 César E. Chávez “5 de mayo” Celebration.
The public is invited to this annual event,Friday, May 5, at the museum, 272 Pearl St NW, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tickets are $30 per individual, or a table of 10 for $300; purchase tickets online here.
“We are proud to be a partner with the Committee to Honor César E. Chávez in hosting this important community celebration,” said Dale A. Robertson, Grand Rapids Public Museum president and CEO. “The museum is a fitting place for this historical event; we believe in the value of working together to share stories and lessons that inspire and expand cultural opportunities for all.”
Three community members will be honored for their service and social justice work:
Andrés Abreu, editor-in-chief, El Vocero Hispano;
Carol Hennessey, Kent County commissioner, 14th district; and
José Reyna, community health programs director for Spectrum Health.
The celebration will feature authentic Mexican food, music and dancing.
Area colleges and universities joining the Committee to Honor César E. Chávez to support this event include: Aquinas College, Calvin College, Kendall College of Art and Design, Davenport University, Ferris State University, Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, and Western Michigan University-Grand Rapids.
“Many of our campus partners serve a diverse populations and Grand Valley is proud to partner with and support this annual cultural event alongside our partner universities and colleges,” said Jesse Bernal, vice president for Inclusion and Equity at Grand Valley.
The Proud Aguila sponsors of the event are AT&T, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Valley State University and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Lupe Ramos-Montigny “Si Se Puede” Legacy Endowed Scholarship at Grand Valley. Scholarships will be awarded in October to Hispanic students who are pursuing college degrees.
Questions about the event can be directed to Lupe Ramos-Montigny, chair of the Committee to Honor César E. Chávez, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616.443.5922.
GRandJazzFest presented by DTE Energy Foundation returns to Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., this Aug. 19 and 20, for the sixth annual festival. The popular family-friendly festival is West Michigan’s only free, weekend-long jazz festival.
At the 2017 festival in August, 11 diverse jazz artists and bands will perform, including a student jazz band and two major headline acts. Free face painting by Fancy Faces will be available for kids and, if lines aren’t too long, for “kids at heart.”
The two-day festival will again be free thanks to Presenting Sponsor DTE Energy Foundation, the City of Grand Rapids and other sponsoring organizations, individuals and volunteers.
“There’s something special about jazz that brings people together like no other art form. It’s because jazz is so diverse – it has so many styles, from Big Band to Latin to Contemporary, and I’m just naming a few,” GRandJazzFest Founder Audrey Sundstrom said. “GRandJazzFest is what community is all about.”
GRandJazzFest typically draws thousands to the heart of downtown Grand Rapids for the two-day, outdoor event always held the third weekend in August.
Holding the festival in the center city is by design, to enable festival-goers to take in all that downtown has to offer: restaurants, clubs, museums, microbreweries and shops. The festival typically occurs during Restaurant Week in Grand Rapids. The festival’s location provides easy access to those who ride the bus, walk or bike, and is also close to parking.
The 2017 festival lineup will be announced on April 26 at the House of Entertainment and Music (H.O.M.E.) at The B.O.B.
Sometimes life can bring unexpected challenges. The loss of a job, unexpected medical bills or a house fire can make a financially stable family face homelessness. Unfortunately, unexpected emergencies can happen at any time. There are many organizations in Kent County that provide assistance in these situations. But how do you know whom to contact? What if you need help with food and paying utilities and rent all at the same time?
There is one resource that connects residents to more than 2,900 services in Kent County. The Heart of West Michigan United Way’s 2-1-1 database is the first place families should go in their time of need. Information can be easily accessed by calling 2-1-1 anywhere in Kent County, emailing HWReferral@incontactemail.com or online at: http://www.referweb.net/hwmi/. They even have their own app available for androids and iPhones — just search Kent 2-1-1 to download.
Whatever your situation, you are not alone. In Kent County, it is estimated that 39% of households are struggling to afford basic needs. Last year our local 2-1-1 answered 65,000 calls for help. Most calls are for assistance with:
The database also offers resources specifically for Veterans and information on employment services, education and arts & recreation.
Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit www.communityactionkent.org
In this lightning-paced, online world, one of a business’s greatest challenges is to get noticed and set itself apart from a plethora of similar businesses. No mean feat — the Internet is a bottomless sea of noise, images and information.
One only need look at co-founders Jonathan and Beth Mast’s foundational values to understand what sets Valorous Circle apart from its competitors.
‘We don’t really look for a lot of accolades other than from our clients’
“Obviously, a website has to work — no one is going to use a website that doesn’t work,” said Beth Mast, Owner and Chief Operating Office of Valorous Circle. “But beyond that, it has to be able to engage with the actual client’s audience. That was the primary focus that we began from.
“From there one thing that makes us very unique is that we give our clients full access to their website where that’s not typical. And we’re here to support them, to empower our clients to know that this is their asset, this is their website.”
The Masts work very closely in the community with nonprofits, ministries and primarily with businesses throughout the area, helping them create an online presence that “creates credibility for their business and then drives traffic to their website and more importantly, the right traffic,” said Jonathan Mast, Founder and Chief Internet Strategist. “We don’t just want to provide the client with a pretty website. We want to provide them with a website that’s going to appeal to their target audience.”
It is against this backdrop that the Masts received word that Valorous Circle was being honored as the Chamber’s 2016 Service Business of the Year.
“We don’t really look for a lot of accolades other than from our clients, obviously,” said Jonathan. “We just feel real honored that the Chamber is recognizing the work we’re doing in the community and showing some appreciation. We’re thrilled, very honored.”
The folks at Valorous Circle are big believers that a company should be involved in the communities where it does business.
“And although we are based in Grand Rapids, we do work throughout West Michigan and as a result of that, we’re members of the Wyoming/Kentwood Chamber, among other chambers, because we want to be part of that community,” Jonathan said. “We want to give back.”
Valorous Circle has come a long way since its humble beginnings, in a chilly basement.
“We currently have 10 employees, 11 if you count our dog, Yoshi, who is our Barketing Director and Happiness Hero,” said Beth. “We have employees that are in sales and marketing, we have developers and support and doing website design, project managers and marketers.”
Jonathan said the Wyoming Chamber does a fantastic job of understanding that a company’s first and primarily goal is to serve and at the same time make a fair profit.
“The Chamber is very focused on helping us become better businesses, become more involved in the community and do a better job of reaching that community, Jonathan said. They help promote each of the businesses that are members and encourage networking and collaboration among the members.
‘Our involvement with the Chamber is mutually beneficial’
“My grandfather taught me many years ago that a rising tide raises all boats. And it’s part of how we do business, it’s part of what we really respect about the chamber, that they understand that concept. That the better the area is doing, whether that’s the individual community, whether that’s the businesses in the community, or whether that’s other aspects related to that, it helps everybody out.
“And so by creating a stronger community, whether that’s a jobs area, whether that’s a business community, whether that’s better networking, whether it’s better collaboration between nonprofits and business, that rising tide benefits every single individual, and organization within the area and I think that that’s one of the things I’m so thankful that I learned early on and we’re really thankful for that the chamber seems to embody.”
Kent County leadership is nearing the end of its process to name a new county administrator/controller — in essence the chief administrative and financial officer, as well as the person who oversees day-to-day operation of county government.
And the public will have opportunity in this week to engage and offer feedback on the process and the two final candidates for the job.
The final candidates for the position are Wayman P. Britt, from Grand Rapids, and Marc S. Ryan, from Land O’Lakes, Fla.
On Wednesday, Jan. 10, from 5-7:30 p.m., the county will host an open Candidates Community Forum in the Multi-Purpose Room at the Human Services Complex, 121 Franklin SE, Grand Rapids. This will provide an opportunity for the public to provide feedback regarding the candidates, according to supplied material.
The importance of that job is evidenced in the fact that the county’s just approved 2018 budget of $417 million will be second highest in the area, behind only the City of Grand Rapids’ $528 million budget, and that the county will spend just over $350 million to fund the sheriff’s office and courts, social services, the county’s elections, veterans services and other programs.
The position answers directly to the Board of Commissioners. The position’s salary ranges from $110,300 to $171,078, according to the county, but the specific contract for the new administrator/controller is as-yet undetermined.
“The (recruitment) committee is proud to hold the community forum and ask for public feedback in the recruitment process for this important role,” Sandi Steensma, commissioner and Administrator/Controller Recruitment Subcommittee Chair, said in supplied material. “The community’s input in the process is critical to making the right decision for such an important leadership role. We hope residents will make their voices heard as we complete this process.”
Britt is currently the interim county administrator and previously served as assistant administrator. He also played basketball for University of Michigan, and played in the NBA for two seasons before continuing his education. Ryan is currently Chief Strategy and Compliance Officer at MedHOK, Inc., and previously served in the State of Connecticut Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management/State Budget Director.
One of the two will replace former Kent County Administrator Daryl Delabbio, who retired in June of this year after 22 years of service to the county.
IN addition to the Jan. 10 public access opportunity, on Jan. 11, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the finalist candidate interviews with the full Board of Commissioners, will take place and will be open to the public. Finally, also on Jan. 11, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., recruiting subcommittee will review member commissioner feedback and identify the top candidate to be recommended to the full Board of Commissioners for consideration.
After conducting an annual rate study and holding a 20-day public comment period, the Grand Rapids City Commission has set the water and sewer rates for 2017.
Because a portion of the Kentwood system is owned and maintained by the City of Grand Rapids (generally east of Breton Avenue), Kentwood residential customers will see some very slight changes in their quarterly water/sewer bills.
“The average residential customer will actually see a very slight overall decrease of 0.21% in their quarterly water/sewer bill for 2017,” said Tim Bradshaw, Director of Engineering & Inspections with the City of Kentwood.
The approximate changes to quarterly billing for the average customer are as follows:
Water: $2.15 (2.59 percent increase)
Sewer: ($2.46) (3.71 percent decrease)
There were no significant upgrades to the system, and Kentwood experienced minor growth via commercial and residential development.
“The main driver for the increase in the water rate is the need for the City of Grand Rapids to maintain a debt service coverage ratio of 1.2 to maintain their AA bonding status,” explained Bradshaw.
By Area Community Services Employment & Training Council (ACSET)
The New Year is here! It’s also the beginning of tax season. For many, income tax preparation can be an overwhelming process.
What tax credits am I eligible for? What if I make a mistake?
There are plenty of services that can prepare your taxes for you, but if you’re on a limited budget, that might not be an option. Did you know that ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) provides free income tax preparation and filing for qualifying residents of Kent County?
According to the IRS, last year in the State of Michigan, $2 billion dollars was received by low-income workers in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC. This averaged out to $2,488 in tax refunds per qualifying household. However, it is estimated that 20% of eligible workers in the United States do not claim the EITC. Are you one of those missing out on a larger tax refund?
To benefit from the EITC, you must file a tax return for 2016. If you are not sure where to begin, the CAA Tax Preparation Assistance program can help. The program was developed to increase the number of low-income families receiving the EITC.
Want to know if you qualify for a larger refund in 2017?
Find out if you meet the EITC basic qualifications. Visit the EITC website to learn more.
See if your income meets the limits required by the program. Visit the IRS website to find out the 2016 tax year limits.
Contact ACSET CAA’s Tax Preparation Assistance program at 616-336-4000 for additional assistance.
Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit www.communityactionkent.org.
It’s the $64,000 question after a huge snow dump: When will my street get plowed? Watch the video above to learn about the City of Wyoming’s snow removal policy. In a nutshell, there are priorities: first, the busiest streets get plowed; next, the collector streets; and last of all, the quiet cul-de-sacs. More info is available here. The goal of the City of Wyoming’s snowplowing operation is to have all streets plowed within 24 hours after the end of a storm.
Major Streets inthe City of Kentwood with the most traffic — such as 44th, 52nd, Kalamazoo and Eastern — get plowed and salted first during a snow “event”.
Collector Streets — next in line are the “main” streets throughout many of the subdivisions where you live. The streets you use to enter or exit an area adjacent to the major streets are plowed and salted after the major streets have been cleared and are as safe as possible to travel on. Some examples of collector streets are: Baileys Grove Dr., Stauffer Ave and Gentian Ave.
Local Streets are the streets within the subdivisions themselves. These are plowed after the collectors are cleared and safe for travel. Salt is typically not spread on the local streets.
Cul-De-Sacs/stub streets are the last to get attention. Smaller pick-up trucks direct the snow to areas in the cul-de-sac that are suitable for snow storage. It’s important that items are removed from the cul-de-sacs — soccer goals, portable basketball hoops and any other miscellaneous items.
Sometimes things don’t go as planned — maybe a busy street has been plowed and the City has moved onto another when Mother Nature disrupts the routine. When this happens — say, the major roads deteriorate — attention is shifted back to them and the cycle starts over.
Both cities make every effort to have all the roads cleared within 24 hours after the snow event has ended. During most snow events crews are working around the clock with trucks on the road 24 hours a day, sometimes for several days in a row.
If you live in the City of Wyoming and park on the street, there are no worries three seasons out of the year.
But during the winter months, it’s a different story — parking on both sides of the street can restrict the width of the street to a point where emergency vehicles are unable to have access.
To provide better access, the City implements Odd/Even Parking restrictions from December 1 until March 31. See the Odd/Even Parking ordinance for specific information.
According to the ordinance, from December 1 through the end of March of each year and during any declared snow emergency, any motor vehicles and other licensed trailers or equipment “shall be parked only on that side of the street having even numbers on even numbered calendar days and on that side of the street having odd numbers on the odd numbered calendar days between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 7 pm of the same day with the following exceptions:
When a residence is on a cul-de-sac, on-street parking shall only be on the even numbered calendar days.
When a residence is on a street already posted “No Parking”, the no parking restrictions shall apply.
Parked cars will not be ticketed from 7 pm to midnight. At any other time, cars must be parked on the correct side of the street according to that day’s date.
So, in a nutshell: On even numbered calendar days, park on the side of the street with even numbers (addresses) between midnight and 7 pm. On odd numbered days, park on the side with odd numbers. OK to park on either side from 7 pm to midnight.
To promote enhanced safety during storm response and other road maintenance efforts, the Kent County Road Commission (KCRC)joins state, county and municipal transportation agencies throughout the state in installing green strobe lights on road maintenance vehicles. When motorists see green strobe lights, they are asked to slow down and be alert – a KCRC snowplow or road maintenance truck is performing work on the right of way.
“Our vehicles generally travel at speeds of 25-35 mph when conducting storm response efforts or other road maintenance activities. The ability for motorists to identify our vehicles quickly improves their own response time in reducing their speed, which provides the necessary space between vehicles and improves safety for both the motorists and our workers,” said Jerry Byrne, KCRC’s Deputy Managing Director of Operations.
Public transportation agencies advocate the use of green lights because they:
Improve the visibility of authorized public agency trucks while working in the right of way
Differentiate a public agency’s vehicles from other private motorists and companies using amber lights
For the past few years, KCRC has been advocating the use of green strobe lights on road maintenance vehicles. On September 7, 2016, an amendment to the Michigan Vehicle Code, Public Act 16 became effective, giving state, county and municipal transportation agencies the right to use green lights on their vehicles.
“Amber lights are used on vehicles performing all sorts of jobs: mail delivery, refuse pick-up, private plowing, even pizza delivery,” said Jerry Byrne, KCRC’s Deputy Managing Director of Operations. “By combining amber and green lights, public road agencies can differentiate themselves and, hopefully, motorists will learn to equate the green lights with storm response efforts or road repair. We think this will keep motorists, and our crews working along the right of way, safer.”
KCRC has been working with the Michigan Department of Transportation, the County Road Association of Michigan and other local road agencies to spread the word about the implementation of green lights on their road maintenance trucks.
“This winter, motorists will see the green strobe lights throughout the state,” said Byrne, “so it’s important we collaborate to get the message out: green strobe means go slow!”
One of the topics of discussion will be the newOvertime Lawthat goes into effectDec. 1, 2016. If you would like to comment or have figured out how much this will cost your company, please come to the Forum and share with us your input.
This meeting is an opportunity for business owners and the community to face our appointed officials and bring to light any issues or concerns they would like to address. You are welcome to be recognized by the moderator — and present your questions at the allotted time.
Bring your top issues and interact with policymakers from
City of Kentwood
City of Wyoming
County of Kent
Michigan House of Representatives
This monthly meeting will be televised by Cable Channel 25 WKTV.
As we creep ever closer to the snowy weather, the City of Wyoming has received a number of questions regarding which snow removal vehicles are authorized to use green flashing lights.
According to Michigan law, all vehicles engaged in the removal of snow are to be equipped with at least one (1) flashing, rotating or oscillating yellow or amber light. (MCL257.682c).
Last year, the Legislature enacted a change to MCL-257.698 that only allows state, county or municipal vehicles to use a green flashing, oscillating or rotating light — in combination with a yellow or amber light — while engaged in snow removal or other activities.
So, short answer: unless you’re driving a state, county or municipal vehicle, no green flashing lights for you.
KCRC is once again urging motorists to take advantage of the fall conditions and Shake Your Mailbox. Give the mailbox an aggressive shake; if the mailbox moves, it most likely needs maintenance to withstand the winter season and storm response efforts.
Over the years, a mailbox post can rot or become wobbly. By grabbing and shaking it, a resident can determine if it’s secure.
“The average speed of a snow plow is only 25 to 30 miles per hour, but a large enough amount of snow pushed off the road can damage a mailbox that is not in optimal condition,” said KCRC’s Deputy Managing Director of Operations Jerry Byrne.
Addressing necessary repairs now will help residents avoid the potential hassle of delayed mail or the need to make alternate mail delivery arrangements that a damaged mailbox can cause. The colder is gets, the greater the chance of below freezing conditions, and this makes it more difficult to install or fix a mailbox.
“Quick fixes like duct tape, bungee cords and string won’t last the season,” said Byrne. “Tighten screws and ensure that your mailbox post and receptacle are secure enough to endure large amounts of thrown snow.”
KCRC receives a number of calls from residents who believe road commission snow plows have hit their mailbox and caused damage. Byrne said that every complaint is investigated. “What we find, nine times out of ten, is that the snow coming off the truck’s blade, not the truck itself, made impact with the mailbox. We also find that, had the mailbox been in appropriate condition, it likely would have withstood the velocity at which the snow hit it.”
Esperanza Mercado wants her children — kindergartner Coral, first-grader Yra, and fourth-grader Adrian — to have big goals. “I want them to get their master’s degrees,” she said.
“I didn’t get much education,” she said while attending an English literacy class at North Godwin Elementary School. Mercado’s formal education ended in sixth grade. An immigrant from Mexico, she moved to the United States more than 20 years ago.
She’s attending the intermediate-level class, offered by the Literacy Center of West Michigan and led by Americorps instructors, for two hours twice a week to improve her English-speaking and reading skills. At North and West Godwin elementary schools, where more than 40 percent of families are English-language learners, basic and intermediate classes are offered all school year long. Grand Rapids Public Schools also offers the program.
Mercado already speaks basic English, but wants to build confidence.
“I want to be able to communicate with people who speak English,” she explained. “I want to help my kids with their homework, attend meetings with no helper interpreting. I want to be capable to speak without someone else to help me.”
The fact classes are held at school is ideal, said Sarah Schantz, North Godwin Kent School Services Network community school coordinator.
“Having it here makes it a lot easier,” Schantz said. “It’s right after school starts. Parents stay for class after dropping off students. Having them here gives them the extra opportunity to stay after class and help out with things that they like to.”
The class helps parents connect in other ways too. It’s for all non-native English speakers, not just Spanish-speaking.
“It helps them be able to communicate with us, with their students, with helping them with homework,” ” Schantz said.
Helping Students Read Proficiently
Marti Hernandez, director of the Family Literacy Program at the Literacy Center of West Michigan, said the program serves a huge need as the Hispanic population continues to grow.
The program’s aims are tied to third-grade literacy, helping parents help their children be fluent readers by then, said Hernandez, a former principal at Burton Middle School. “Our goal is to help the parents learn English so they can be more involved in their child’s education, and be more informed on what’s going on in their child’s school and what the goals are for their child,” Hernandez said.
“It also helps them with employability,” she added. “You need to have some sort of English in order to get a job and to just survive.”
Parents also learn the importance of promoting literacy in the home. Monthly Family Activity Nights are offered for families.
“I am so pleased to see so many of my parents participating in our English Literacy classes,” said North Godwin Principal Mary Lang. “They are so committed to learning the language so they are able to better support their children through their educational process.”
Participant Maria Nunoz, mom to kindergartener Gadiel, sixth-grader Adan and seventh-grader Lorenzo, said she’s continuing to study English so she can better help them in school.
“I help Gadiel with homework, and the alphabet pronunciation,” she said.
Be sure to check out School News Network for more stories about our great students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan!
WKTV takes seriously its role as a communications provider. We want our community to be well-informed and more involved in local matters. Note: Wyoming City Council seats are nonpartisan.
Kent County 911 Dispatch
Kent County Under Sheriff Michelle Lajoye-Young sat down with WKTV to explain the Kent County 911 Central Dispatch millage that will be voted on during the general election on November 8. If you would like to watch the whole interview, you can view it here.
John Ball Zoo/Grand Rapids Public Museum
Dale Robertson of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, CEO of John Ball Zoo Pete D’Arienzo, and Kent County Commissioner Harold Voorhees sat down with WKTV to share information regarding the upcoming millage to help fund the Zoo and the Museum. The millage will be voted on during the general election on November 8. If you would like to watch the whole interview, you can view it here.
At the age of 23, Grand Rapids native Leighton Watson is striving to leave a legacy that matters, and he is confident that his life path is on target to achieve that goal.
Watson was in Grand Rapids Sept. 26 to share with Grand Valley State University students the importance of finding solutions to social injustice within each community. The former student body president of Howard University was the keynote speaker for a presentation called ‘The Power of Student Voices,’ a component of GVSU’s Student Assembly Week. The purpose of the assembly was to encourage students to actively engage in conversation about social and political issues and have their voices heard.
Although he is active in addressing the issues of Civil Rights and social injustice, Watson says he doesn’t think of himself as an ‘activist.’
“I’d rather be called a human being,” he said. “Everyone wants to put you in a box and label you. I’m an American.”
Watson’s current life path crystallized during his senior year of college, around the time of the Ferguson riots. Deeply disturbed by the increasing civil unrest and injustice, he gathered fellow students for a photo, ‘Hands Up’ (as in ‘don’t shoot’). He also traveled to Ferguson to see the situation firsthand.
“You can’t prescribe a remedy for a situation you don’t know about,” Watson said.
Meanwhile, the ‘Hands Up’ image rapidly went viral on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and CNN took notice. The station invited him to the studio to share his views and possible remedies for civic unrest.
“We don’t have to wait until we get to the point of Ferguson,” he said. “A lot of the same symptoms are happening now in other cities, but people don’t realize it until things blow up. If America was what it’s supposed to be, what it says on paper, you’d never have the movement, women’s rights, etc. I still think that there is a gap and that means there’s work for me and us to close that gap.”
After seeing Watson’s CNN appearance — and impressed with his proactive approach to identifying solutions (rather than simply pointing out the problems) — the White House invited him to Washington to be a part of a task force on policing.
“The President asked me what I wanted him to do about Ferguson,” said Watson. “There is no national solution to this issue. It’s something that must be addressed state by state, local government by local government — it has to happen on a local level.”
Since then, Watson has kept busy visiting communities across the country to talk to school children and organizations, discussng concerns and organizing movements. He stresses the importance of preparation and solution-finding, even at the middle school level.
“And I say to middle-schoolers, ‘You have to be prepared to answer the question. Preparation is an ongoing process; you must be prepared to meet the president in that moment.'”
Watson learned the importance of legacy from his grandfather, who started the Section 8 Housing Authority in South Bend, Indiana. Years after his death, people remember and speak very highly of him.
“I was about four years old when he died,” said Watson. “My grandpa taught me that achievement is not a resting place, it’s a trampoline.
“Fifty years from now, history will have written about this time, that these police shootings happened. The question I’ll have to answer my grandchildren is, ‘Grandpa, where were you when this happened?’ And I’ll want to answer that question confidently, that I did do something about it.
“Legacy is important. What you do with your time is important,” said Watson. “I want to look back on my life and be confident about what I did with my time.”