Writing our Her-story: The womxn shaping our city

March is Women’s History Month, and as we take the time to learn and uncover the countless ways womxn have made an impact on our everyday lives, we here at Rapid Growth would like to take a moment to highlight just some of the amazing womxn our city is fortunate to have. We asked them to tell us about what they do and what inspires them.

Let this list show that Grand Rapids has talented womxn / womxn of color and that they are here and they are busy!

Anel Guel, Developer at Spectrum Health Application Development Intern
“What excites me is the possibility of solving problems creatively in a dynamic team.”

Brandy Arnold, Youth & Inclusion Specialist at Kids' Food Basket
“I engage schools, students, and families that we serve; work a bit in fund development; and co-lead our equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives.”

Brittany Schlacter, Public Outreach Coordinator of Digital Media at The Rapid
“What excites me most about my work is being able to serve the various mobility needs of the community and continually look for new ways to improve our service.”

Denavvia Mojet, Strategic Communications Coordinator at Linc Up / Host of Political Pulse on 97.3 the Beat
“As Host of 'Political Pulse with Denavvia Mojet,' I introduce urban listeners and views to candidates, organizations, and current events in local politics. As Strategic Communications Coordinator for LINC, my focus has been innovating new ways to holistically engage residents and hold leaders accountable for their response to resident voices.”

Erika VanDyke, Kent School Services Network Coordinator
“As a KSSN coordinator, I do a lot of behind the scenes work to make sure that families have access to the resources they need for their kids to be able to arrive at school ready to learn. I build relationships with individuals, other nonprofits, and businesses to get family needs met. I think of my job as leveling the playing field a little, especially for our families of color and newly arrived who don't always have a social or economic safety net when they fall on hard times.”

Jackie Hernandez, Bilingual Community Liaison at Linc Up
“As a Community Liaison I help connect people with opportunities for involvement in civic engagement at the local (city and grassroots) level. I also provide information and resources to effect and create change on a personal level. Everyone is capable of making change once they KNOW what’s is going on.”

Janean Couch, Program Director at Grand Rapids Community Foundation
“What I love about our work is that we can have a long-term impact on the community. To do my work effectively requires building trusting relationships in the community and a building a knowledge base of systems, resources and networks. I’m excited to help lead some of the efforts at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and leverage all of our community’s resources for more equitable outcomes.”

Kaitlyn Califf, Program Manager, Grand Circus & Social Media Specialist, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids
“Foster a positive learning environment to ensure success for Grand Circus students. Inform and engage the Grand Rapids Community through digital communications at YMCA.”

Kelsey Perdue, Assistant Campus Director at Grand Circus
“It's exciting to literally help people level up. Seeing people double their salary by starting a career in tech and be able to do more for themselves and their family is amazing. “

Keyuana Rosemond, Program Manager at FitKids 360-Health Net of West Michigan
“In my role, I strive to create community within our participants by providing fun opportunities for families to learn and practice healthier habits with the support of their neighbors. FitKids360 is about supporting families on their healthy lifestyle journey and celebrating the small changes that lead to lasting improvements. My role is to fulfill the vision of "creating a healthier community one FitKid at a time" by building a full spectrum of support for families that struggle with obesity to see that they are not alone and part of a larger community that will support that journey”

Lajanae Smith, Director at Cinema Bijon Enterprise
“My day is what I make it and growing up I never imagined being my own boss. The joy of opening up new possibilities every single day keeps my work exciting.”

Lisa Ann Cockrel, Managing Director at Calvin Center for Faith & Writing
“As managing director of the Calvin Center of Faith & Writing I curate and engineer the biennial Festival of Faith & Writing; help develop and produce various other CCFW initiatives including author talks and the Hudson-Townsend Publishing Institute; create educational opportunities for Hudson-Townsend Student Fellows; and consult on and/or help produce various CCFW publications and media production.”

Lis Bokt, Executive Director at The Geek Group National Science Institute
“I help guide the overall educational and vocational programming within The Geek Group, working with both the staff and our community to continuously gauge what services are needed and what priority they have.”

Lorena Aguayo-Márquez, Adult Education Program Assistant at Grand Rapids Community College
“Is the program assistant for Adult Education. She has worked at Grand Rapids Community College for the past 11 years and currently helps leads the Adult Education English Language Acquisition, Citizenship and
Cruisin' to College Success programs.”

Lydia VanHoven, Team Lead of Creative, The Distillery Project/Meijer
“Every day, I get to lead a team of Copywriters and Art Directors in solving problems with creativity. We create beautiful and hardworking advertising for the biggest grocery store in the Midwest, Meijer.”

Michelle Jokish-Polo (our very own!), On the Ground and Defining Division Editor at Rapid Growth Media / Director of Storytelling at Urban Core Collective
“My current job excites me because it allows me to take responsibility in highlighting the voices on the margins.”

Mercedes Barragan, Talent Programs Specialist at Spectrum Health
“I serve as a consultant to our internal resource groups. Together we help create a diverse and inclusive culture. I also manage communication projects for Inclusion & Diversity”

Steffanie Rosalez, Program Director of Cook Arts Center
"I work to develop and administer multidisciplinary arts programming for neighborhood youth and families on Grand Rapids’ Southwest side. I lead programs and initiatives surrounding the arts, race, culture and community and use the arts as a force of positive change. " 

Synia Jordan, Cosmetologist, Realtor, CTA
“Being a service to others has always been my passion, both personally and professionally. I'm a licensed cosmetologist and have owned my own salon for over 18 years. I believe a healthy spirit and body go hand-in-hand and I treat every client with special care and detail in my salon as well as in my real estate profession.”

Tonisha Begay, Department Assistant at Calvin College / Program Assistant, Office of Multicultural Affairs at Grand Valley State University
“I connect Native American students to resources on campus to promote their academic success, cultural learning and sense of belonging on campus. GVSU can be an isolating environment for students of color on campus, so part of my work includes developing programs that help them feel welcome”

Adriane Johnson, Chief Creative Director at Rebellious Creatives Web Design
“Providing affordable design services that are personable and hands on.”

Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.

Ken Miguel-Cipriano is Rapid Growth’s innovation and jobs editor. To reach Ken, you can email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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