Meet Kelsey

 

I knew early that I wanted to be part of history as a change maker. There wasn’t one “aha” moment, because giving back and fighting for what’s right was part of my upbringing. 

As the daughter of an older parent from rural Alabama and a first generation American mother, we had honest conversations about the world and it’s -isms. The somewhat gender- and racially- neutral name “Kelsey” was my parents’ attempt to work against bias – something they both knew all too well. 

My earliest memories in Grand Rapids involved difference. I didn't understand or think it was fair that different neighborhoods felt “better” than others, that parks and local schools had different qualities of amenities, or that some of the hardest working people I knew had the least. 

Even still, I grew up with a strong sense of community. I didn’t know I was supposed to be scared in my neighborhood until I heard it on the news. 

My time at Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, DC, gave me the education I needed to understand and to be part of change. My purpose is in understanding, educating and working to reduce and eliminate racial and socioeconomic disparities. 

I come to you as a daughter of this city that returned home because of her purpose and commitment to Grand Rapids and the Third Ward.

 
 

Born & Raised Here

At 15, I discovered advocacy in Grand Rapids. At 20, I was a youth organizer in Washington, DC. Today, I’m a proud product of GRPS and the Baxter Neighborhood. I’m running for elected office to give back to the community that’s given so much to me. 

 

Community Advocate

I’m running to listen, represent and speak up for a Thriving Third Ward. I will bring presence and proactive leadership to the issues that matter to residents and that are important to the vitality of our city. I support inclusive economic development, believe in a holistic approach to public safety, and commit to investing in youth. 

 

Experienced

My professional career in education, health and workforce development led me to advocacy and systems change. I lead a statewide project that advocates for state policy and a budget that invests in child and family well-being. I understand how government works and how to get things done.  

 

Energetic 

I’ve fostered spaces of inclusive discussion and bridge-building on city issues. I currently Chair the Community Relations Commission where we explore issues like housing and policing with city departments and with community groups. I’ve served on other city and nonprofit boards and am a Gubernatorial appointee.

My Experience

City & Political Leadership

  • Commissioner, First Steps Kent, 2021 - present

  • Chair & Commissioner, Community Relations Commission, City of Grand Rapids, 2018 - present

  • Gubernatorial Appointee, Education Subcommittee, Black Leadership Advisory Council, State of Michigan, 2020 - present

  • Member, Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategic Planning Committee, City of Grand Rapids, 2019

  • Graduate, Michigan Political Leadership Program, Michigan State University, 2018

  • Citizens Committee, Parks & Recreation Strategic Master Plan, City of Grand Rapids, 2017

 

Community Leadership

  • Social Action Chair, Grand Rapids Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, 2017 - 2021

  • Founder & Co-Chair, Equity Political Action Committee, 2016 - 2021

  • President & Board Member, Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan, 2015 - 2018

  • Presenter, Grand Rapids Neighborhood Summit, Grand Rapids, 2018

  • KidsSpeak, Community Listening Panel, City of Grand Rapids, 2017

  • Leadership Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, 2019

Work Experience

  • Project Director, Kids Count in Michigan, Michigan League for Public Policy, 2019 - present

  • Assistant Campus Director, Grand Circus Coding Bootcamp, 2017 - 2019

  • Program Director, YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, 2015 - 2017

  • Evaluation Consultant, City of Grand Rapids Mayor’s 100 Program, 2016

  • Office Assistant, Our Community's Children, City of Grand Rapids, 2015

  • Adjunct Professor, Dominican Republic, 2014

  • Director of Student Achievement, Higher Achievement, Washington, DC, 2012 - 2013

  • Evaluation Research Assistant, Georgetown-Howard Universities, 2011 - 2012

  • Early Childhood Teacher, Jumpstart, Washington, DC, 2008 - 2010

Volunteerism 

  • Mentor, FitKids 360, Health Net, 2015 - present

  • Judge for Startup Weekend Grand Rapids, 2018

  • Agency Coordinator, Code for Good West Michigan, 2018

  • Mentor, Michigan Youth ChalleNGe Academy, 2016

  • Volunteer, GRAAHI Rhythm Run, 2015

 

Awards

  • 40 Under 40 Business Leader, Grand Rapids Business Journal, 2019 

  • Community Spirit Award, LINC Up, 2017 

  • Community Advocate Award Finalist & Raising the Bar Award Finalist, Grand Rapids Young Professionals, 2017

  • Howard University Bisonette of the Year, 2011

Education

Hillcrest Elementary | City Middle School | City High School | Central High School | Howard University