KConnect, a local collective impact organization focused on equity, has partnered with the Michigan League for Public Policy and local policy experts Kathleen L. Bruinsma and John Helmholdt to address the need for a common policy agenda for Kent County. KConnect has also brought in Dr. Shayla Young to lead the work as the community’s postdoctoral fellow focused on Community Engagement and Policy and Advocacy.
This co-created policy agenda will focus on closing the unacceptable achievement gaps for children and families of color in Kent County. “Policy is essential and one of the most efficient and sustainable ways to operationalize equity in the community,” says Bruinsma. Dr. Young is in agreement and is looking forward to collaborating. “I’m excited about the opportunity to work alongside these great minds,” Dr. Young said. “These change agents and our network will deepen our impact on the equity work here in Kent County.”
The group will also be focusing on advocating in the community at a local, state, and national level around KConnect’s areas of focus including early childhood education, K-12 academic success, post-secondary completion, career success and home and family stability. This advocacy effort will be aimed at improving policies, practices, and procedures that are causing disproportinate outcomes in the community.
Kathleen Bruinsma is a Grand Rapids attorney and elected Grand Rapids Community College trustee. She has conducted policy analysis and advocacy for nonprofits, small businesses, and community coalitions throughout her career. For Kathleen, public policy is both a profession and a passion because it is essential to effecting justice.
John Helmholdt is president of SeyferthPR, a leading public relations and strategic communications firm based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has more than twenty-five years of experience in public policy, government affairs, political consulting and strategic communications. He served as the lobbyist for Grand Rapids Public Schools for the last fifteen years. His prior experience included working in the state Legislature as a legislative aide, lobbyist for the Grand Rapids Chamber and co-owner of a local public relations firm.
As a Grand Rapids native and a Gates Millennium Scholar, Dr. Shayla Young is passionate about increasing postsecondary success for Grand Rapids youth. Dr. Young obtained 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.
The Michigan League for Public Policy is a nonprofit policy institute focused on opportunity for all. Its mission is to advance economic security, racial equity, health and well-being for all people in Michigan through policy change. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.