Welcome Two New Staff Members

KConnect was happy to welcome two new staff members to the KConnect backbone team this year – Maegan Frierson (Director of System Building) and Dr. Shayla Young (Postdoctoral Fellow).

Maegan was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI. Prior to KConnect, she served as the Assistant Director of Admissions at Grand Valley State University. Maegan has a Master’s in Higher Education from Grand Valley State University and a Bachelor of Arts from Western Michigan University. She has a long history of working with marginalized youth across the country. She has professional experience working in behavioral health, higher education, and in the nonprofit sector. In her role at KConnect, Maegan will be leading systems change within the core workgroups and advancing equitable outcomes across the prenatal to career continuum.

As a Grand Rapids native and a Gates Millennium Scholar, Dr. Young is passionate about increasing postsecondary success for Grand Rapids youth. Her commitment to education and the blessing afforded to her through the Gates Foundation has led Shayla to obtain her terminal degree from Michigan State University in Educational Leadership and Administration in 2020. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Social Work and a Master of Educational Leadership and Administration from Purdue University.  During her first year, Dr. Young will be building the infrastructure around the Policy & Advocacy and Community Engagement workgroups now that co-chairs have been identified. Year two will consist of Dr. Young operationalizing the newly-developed framework and recruiting additional members.

Prenatal to Third Grade Workgroup

Born Healthy 

In 2018, the APC affirmed the proposed strategy to establish a community-based doula program pilot in Kent County. This strategy aims to increase the number of doulas of color in Kent County while also increasing access to doula services for expectant women of color. It is important to note that although this collective is technically a program, it is connected to a broader systemic strategy aimed to close disparity gaps through diversification of the healthcare workforce and increasing access to culturally-responsive health services in Kent County.

There is extensive research evidence showing that the role of doulas has a positive impact on birth outcomes. Additionally, becoming certified as a doula can lead to a sustainable career path. The Birth Equity Team launched Day One Doula Collective, housed in the Baxter Community Center, located on the SE side of Grand Rapids. We are proud to say that Day One Doula is currently scaling and is now a 501c3. Funding has been obtained, it has an active program manager, and just launched its second cohort of trained Doulas.

One of the biggest pieces of feedback that we received from the APC was that doula services should be covered by insurance in order to make them more accessible. In 2023, Michigan Medicaid will begin reimbursing for doula services provided to individuals covered by or eligible for Medicaid Insurance (i.e., Medicaid Beneficiaries). Doulas eligible for reimbursement must be Medicaid-enrolled and listed on the MDHHS Doula Registry.

Developmentally On Track

The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is an evidence-based and reputable screening tool that enables parents to gauge whether or not their children are reaching key age-appropriate milestones. PN3 has selected ASQ scores as the metric for the Developmentally On-Track Indicator. This year, we are completing the Memorandums of Understanding for the data-sharing process to populate the ASQ metric on KConnect’s Data Dashboard in early 2023. This will allow this data to be connected to other community initiatives that assist with navigation and referral support for families and early intervention service providers.

Kindergarten Readiness 

The Kindergarten Readiness Assessment was a developmentally appropriate assessment tool designed to measure the school readiness of incoming kindergartners across four domains. The last year this assessment was administered in Kent ISD was 2019. In early 2023, KConnect will host an Early Childhood Convening, sparking dialogue around this important Success Measure and collecting feedback from network partners on the next steps. Additional details to come.

What’s Next

At the fourth quarter Prenatal to Third Grade workgroup meeting, members were asked to vote and rank strategy goals for 2023. A poll was administered including Indicators and pressing issues that are seen within the early childhood space by the Workgroup leadership team. The results below show the percentage of Workgroup members that felt that each category should be a priority in 2023.

  1. Childcare – 67%
  2. Language Access – 53%
  3. Developmentally on Track – 47%
  4. Early Childhood Literacy – 20%
  5. Kindergarten Readiness -13%

Workgroup members saw a need to explore Childcare and Language Access as their top picks. Though both are not KConnect indicators, members would like to explore data trends around these strategy goals and the process of incorporating these into KConnect existing indicators.

4th-12th Grade Workgroup

Diverse Teachers – New Funding Acquired 

This Align and Design Team is focusing on increasing the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in Kent County. This is connected to improving career readiness for students as it allows them the opportunity to learn from and build relationships with adults from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The Diverse Teachers Align and Design Team identified active strategies and initiatives around the 360-degree strategy and presented this model at the May APC. Since May, the Align and Design Team has continued meeting to discuss breaking down the 360-degree model and building teams for each strategy.

We are excited to announce that we have recently received a grant from the New Schools Venture Fund (NSVF) in the amount of $160,000 to continue growing the work around Culturally Responsive Instruction and our Diverse Educator initiative.

Next Steps 

The Workgroup leadership is focused on preparing for 2023 by identifying key strategy goals for the workgroup members and preparing to present an update at the May 2023 APC convening.

High School to Career Workgroup

Business Ownership

We know business ownership is an important factor in generational wealth building. According to 2019 data from the Federal Reserve, business ownership is an important source of family wealth, representing 34% of non-financial assets. However, alarming racial and ethnic disparities exist – for White families, business equity makes up about one out of every three dollars of non-financial assets, whereas for Black or Hispanic families, business equity makes up about one out of every eight dollars of non-financial assets.

That is why the High School to Career Workgroup is pursuing an initiative to 1.) assess the data available to measure business ownership by race/ethnicity in Kent County; 2.) analyze the data to develop a preliminary understanding of the disparities that exist; 3.) design a data collection and measurement process that would allow KConnect to feature this metric on the Data Dashboard; and 4.) implement an ongoing process to ensure this metric is regularly updated and publicly available.

The short-term deliverable of this initiative is to establish Business Ownership as a community-wide indicator on the Data Dashboard, with racial/ethnic disaggregation being a key feature. This is a critical step in the long-term plan, however, to design and implement strategies that promote inclusive economic growth in Kent County. The Workgroup has already established an Align and Design Team of cross-sector partners and experts who are striving to systematically advance business ownership opportunities for entrepreneurs of color. By creating this Business Ownership metric and displaying it on the Data Dashboard, this Workgroup will have better information available to them that can be used to inform strategy development – additionally, it will provide the ability to track progress (or lack thereof) toward equitable growth over time.

Data and Capacity Workgroup

The Data and Capacity Workgroup has spent significant time during 2022 working with community partners to build the first Spanish dashboard in the country with the Hispanic Center and the Community Data and Research Lab at the Johnson Center. While translating the Data Dashboard is the first step, we envision that the project will become a hub of trusted information and resources for the Spanish-speaking community. KConnect recently partnered with local Spanish-language media outlet El Vocero to publish a piece about the lack of Latinx teachers in our local schools. You can read the piece here.

The Workgroup also launched the Prosperity Index; an index of the KConnect Success Measures and Indicators that shows the state of different demographics across our county and they fare against one another. It’s an easy way to visualize the data that shows exactly what we’ve known for years; that white families are having better outcomes in our community than their Black and Brown neighbors. You can view the Prosperity Index on our Data Dashboard.

Finally, the Workgroup continues to maintain and update the Dashboard, including launching the Early High School Success Indicator, working with HSC to create a Business Ownership metric, and developing an early childhood development Indicator utilizing Ages and Stages Questionnaire data with the PN3 Workgroup.

Community Engagement Workgroup

In November 2022, KConnect brought in Dr. Shayla Young as a postdoctoral fellow. During her first year, Dr. Young will be building the infrastructure around the Policy & Advocacy and Community Engagement workgroups. Year two will consist of Dr. Young operationalizing the newly-developed framework and recruiting additional members.

The Community Engagement Workgroup is building infrastructure and capacity by identifying key players and strong leadership. The workgroup welcomes tri-chairs Steff Rosalez (Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities), Eric Freeman (Mindset Meals), and Regenail Thomas (Seeds of Promise). The group continues to meet monthly and is working towards pinpointing strategies that authentically engage all sectors in deeply understanding the needs and aspirations of the community.

Policy and Advocacy Workgroup

The Policy & Advocacy Workgroup continues to work towards increasing the organization’s capacity to impact policy development and advocacy. KConnect has brought on experts Kathleen Bruinsma (McShane & Bowie, P.L.C.) and John Helmholdt (SeyferthPR) as co-chairs to lead the group. Additionally, KConnect has hired the Michigan League for Public Policy as a technical assistance consultant to help advance the work. The workgroup currently aims to establish direction, build membership, and develop a consistent meeting schedule.

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