Published Together: 5 stories that resonate with me and celebrate the power of local voices

During the early days of the pandemic, it became clear via our countless Zoom calls that Rapid Growth was engaging in a lot of dialogue with community members who had valuable insights to share but no clear path to share them. Thus was born our version of the Op-ed, ”Published Together" — a compelling community-centered series born out of one-on-one conversations between a member of our society and with me as Rapid Growth’s publisher. 

Moving quickly through time, this dynamic (and unfunded) series has now welcomed over 25 authentic perspectives from within our community, delving into a myriad of diverse and burgeoning subjects. From day one, as publisher and series curator my aim has always been to elevate local knowledge and expertise through community dialogues on our solutions-driven journalistic platform, fostering empowerment and connection with readers on contemporary topics of importance.

Reflecting on the years since our launch and our commitment to magnifying authentic narratives of our region via Rapid Growth, I would like to draw your attention to five evergreen "Published Together" stories that I believe encourage us to create space where the rich tapestry of community dialogue can indeed flourish and transform us via these narratives. 

"Published Together" is more than a collection of stories; it is a testament to the power of listening to our community-driven narratives and be willing to let this knowledge shape, inform, unite, and perhaps even transform us into something truly worthy of being called Grand (Rapids).

 Published Together stories that resonated with me include these:   

(Race) Published Together: Leaning in, beginning the conversation on race

“Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the issue of race relations in America simmered beneath the surface. However, the shocking death of George Floyd, captured on a person's handheld device and broadcasted onto our TV and computer screens, catalyzed a delayed moment into a global conversation. Deborah Pryor Bayard, a local Grand Rapids Public School educator and consultant, played a crucial role in guiding our community through this moment with her piece. Her story encouraged us to engage in the topic of systemic racism amid the backdrop of our global pandemic.”

(Civics) Published Together: Max Tendero believes civics can create a path forward beginning right here

“In the midst of launching a startup, Grand Rapids entrepreneur Max Tendero, a University of Michigan graduate, faced challenges familiar to many. His startup, Civic Media, though not successful, underscored the crucial role of civic engagement. This story nudged us to consider how we can positively interact within our democracy by showcasing how understanding it can lead to greater common good in our society.

(The Arts) Published Together: A 400+-year-old art form still has relevance today

“When contemplating the transformative power of art on our world, I must confess that Opera wasn't initially at the forefront of my list. However, a conversation with Opera Grand Rapids' executive director, Emilee Syrewicze, shed light on the remarkable changes occurring within this 400-year-old art form and right within our city limits. This first person narrative serves as a compelling reminder of art's ability to reshape and captivate us through the vocalized storytelling of narratives that often mirror events that feel ripped straight from the headlines. As an artist myself, this story reaffirmed that the arts can provide more than just entertainment.”

(Pronouns) Published Together: The power of pronouns (It’s all about respect) 

"This one resonated because the topic is a mystery to many, yet we practice extending respect daily in our lives. Adrian Kresnak, a Michigan State University Masters of Health Communications candidate and intern at The Grand Rapids LGBTQ+ Healthcare Consortium, beautifully cuts through the national clutter on this topic, asking us to consider her hopeful message. Kresnak’s presents a fresh, positive shift in how we approach personal pronouns built on starting with respect. Embracing inclusive policies not only affirms identities but also fosters community, well-being, and a sense of welcoming often missing today.”

(Youth Voice) Published Together: The inspiring power of youth voices 

“Published just before our Voices of Youth series launched in 2023, this piece reminds us that as adults, we often excel at speaking but too often may lose the art of listening. This story from WMEAC’s Deputy Director Elaine Isely underscores the need for us to acknowledge we were once in the shoes of these young voices, yearning to be heard. I know for me it was a poignant reminder of the power in youth perspectives as we navigate our world as adults.”
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