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A nonprofit that provides student mentoring is expanding to a fourth location after a donation from a furniture maker's foundation.
Grand Rapids-based Affinity Mentoring will begin mentoring children at Godfrey-Lee Early Childhood Center in Wyoming this fall after a $75,000 donation from Steelcase Foundation, according to Affinity last month. In the upcoming year, Affinity will match up to 40 students at the school.
Affinity said some of the funds are acting as seed money to start operations at the school, and staff is in the process of developing a fundraising plan to ensure sustainability.
The total funds will be spread across the four school partnerships — which also include Burton Elementary, Burton Middle School and Southwest Community Campus — with the goal of serving more than 310 matches in the four schools next year and continuing to build capacity over the following two years of the grant, Affinity said.
The funds will go toward volunteer mentor recruitment, screening and training, as well as staff to coordinate the program, mentoring supplies, match activities and program evaluation.
Since 2001, more than 1,500 students have been matched with mentors, who offer academic and social emotional support to help students reach their full potential. The nonprofit currently has 229 matches between students and volunteer mentors.
Affinity said there is a need for more mentors, however, and it is developing a multi-year expansion plan to serve more schools, like the seven schools on the waiting list.
“Schools, teachers, parents and students from all over our community have been asking for Affinity Mentoring to be available in other schools,” said Laura Ward, executive director, Affinity Mentoring. “We’ve been working hard to build the capacity needed to expand the program.”
Julie Ridenour, president of the Steelcase Foundation, said, the growing number of requests from families for Affinity's mentoring services is "evidence of the quality of the work done by Affinity’s leadership and volunteers in three of the highest needs Kent County schools."
“The Steelcase Foundation is appreciative of Affinity’s willingness to base its work on best available research, rigorous analysis and growing dedication to improving student literacy achievement,” Ridenour said.