Written by Jessica White-Hatinger, West Michigan Works!
Leadership Grand Rapids’ November session began at Hope Network Leadership Center with warm hellos, a hearty breakfast, powerful leadership lessons from classmates and an enlightening presentation from Chief David Rahinsky of the Grand Rapids Police Department. Then the day took a sharp turn. The comforting food and coffee were gone and the earlier warning from Meg Derrer (LGR ’14) that the day would become heavy, became true.
#biggeststrongestbestclassever was about to experience perhaps its most intense day yet. The theme was Public Safety with pre-session activities that included Ride-a-Longs with GRPD and visits to the Kent County Jail and Goodwill Recycling Center. These activities provided much of the content for the morning’s facilitated conversations.
The small sparks of disheartenment in the room seemed to ignite into full blown frustration during our discussion with former Representative Joe Haveman. Some seemed baffled by his comments while others were trying to understand more and seek clarification with very specific questions. By the end of our Corrections Reform – Smart vs. Tough heated healthy discussion, we were ready for lunch and some breathing space.
Our lunch and afternoon session were hosted by Goodwill at their Employment Center on Sparks Drive. We received a history of their work, a tour, and an opportunity to learn who they are as an employer and community partner. For a brief portion of the day, the air felt lighter as we toured their facility and met some of the staff who assist in making lives better.
As we gathered back into our meeting room, we were met by new, young faces. Five students from Lighthouse Academy, accompanied by their teacher Ms. Diana and Tom Standel, shared their personal experiences with us. Once again, the word of the day—heavy—came creeping back. Each student gave a very personal testimony and shed tears as they spoke. Their vulnerability and the hard reality of their lives was laid out before us.
Fortunately, we did not leave this day session with heavy hearts and a sense of hopelessness. Lighthouse Academy provides the safety net these students need to move their lives in a new and better direction. As a class we also have the means and opportunity to make change. As we concluded our day, we gathered into groups to learn more about our Community Trustee Projects. These projects will give us tangible ways to provide relief, give back to our community and keep us all moving forward.
Leadership Grand Rapids (LGR) is a nine-month community leadership program committed to enhancing and connecting leaders from business, non-profits and government.