An economic development nonprofit focused on the southeast side of Grand Rapids hired a pair of individuals from one of the neighborhoods it serves to round out its team.
Grand Rapids-based Amplify GR said last week that it hired Erek Kooyman as education director and Jenny Griffin as communications manager.
Kooyman and Griffin join Amplify GR in an extended period of growth, as the organization has hired five new team members since launching several years ago to expand and sustain its commitment to the businesses and individuals in the neighborhoods it serves.
“A growing team allows us to further connect, create and amplify opportunities for neighbors,” said Jon Ippel, executive director for Amplify GR. “Erek and Jenny both grew up in the Boston Square neighborhood and have a passion for the community, but they also bring with them unique skill sets and experiences that will be an asset to our organization as we continue to work closely with our partners to widen pathways for stronger neighborhoods.”
In his new role, Kooyman will lead and coordinate education efforts for Amplify GR, including developing a long-term strategy for ensuring all children in the community have access to high-quality pre-K-12 education, which prepares them to enter college or the career of their choice. In addition, Kooyman will act as a liaison to neighborhood schools and collaborate with nonprofit organizations, colleagues in philanthropy, and government officials to develop, fund and leverage new educational initiatives in support of students.
Kooyman brings more than 16 years of experience in the field of education, including his most recent role as an educational consultant for Amplify GR. With his background in student instruction and faculty development, Amplify GR said Kooyman is skilled in identifying educational growth opportunities within the community. Additionally, his expertise in the societal structures surrounding education gives him a nuanced understanding of the resources needed to support the academic, social and emotional growth of children in schools across the Grand Rapids community.
“I have seen firsthand the importance of equitable opportunity and investment in order for students, teachers and schools to thrive,” Kooyman said. “Investing in the education of our children is an important aspect to strengthening community. I look forward to working with our great partners in education to improve outcomes in our neighborhood schools.”
In Griffin’s new role, she will work closely with the executive director to set the strategic communications plan and vision. Griffin also will lead promotion and oversee the education of external audiences regarding the shared vision, goals and strategies of holistic community development. She will work closely with the Amplify GR team, partners and community stakeholders to highlight stories in the neighborhoods served.
Having spent nearly 17 years working in public relations and strategic communications in agency, corporate and nonprofit settings, Griffin will play a significant role in executing the partner and neighbor communications for Amplify GR, the nonprofit said. She most recently served as communications manager for the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology. With her nonprofit and industry experience, Griffin is well positioned to take on this key role with an organization that is based in her neighborhood, she said.
“As a third-generation resident of Boston Square, I feel incredibly privileged to take on a position that allows me to raise the voices of my neighbors,” Griffin said. “Southeast Grand Rapids is full of passionate individuals that care about their community, and after intentionally moving back into the neighborhood, I’m looking forward to supporting the community that has supported my family for nearly 50 years.”
Amplify GR is a nonprofit founded in 2016 with the backing of the DeVos family “to widen pathways so that more residents can participate and benefit from neighborhood growth” in the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and surrounding areas on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.
Through collaborations with residents, businesses, community organizations and funders, Amplify GR works in four areas of impact: jobs and entrepreneurship, housing, education, and community well-being.