Conference Presenters

Keynote Speaker

Mariano Avila
Journalist
WGVU
Grand Rapids, MI


Keynote Presentation: The Power in Your Story
Mariano Avila is an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, produced TV content, and led nonprofit campaigns. He also organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work elevating voices from marginalized communities through the power of story.
   
Mariano was born in Mexico City, Mexico, where he learned the value of civic engagement and public discourse. His life and work have taken him from refugee camps in Palestine to garbage-dump communities in Egypt, Guatemala, and Mexico. He has met presidents and dignitaries from several countries, as well several international celebrities. Mariano is a graduate of Calvin College and has an MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson.

Keynote Speaker

Ken Wasco
Catalyst – Customer Advocate
Gordon Food Service
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: The “IT” Factor – Making the Difference
Ken is a Professional Development Specialist, Motivator, Educator, Author, Catalyst, Doer, National Speaker, Sales and Marketing Strategic Project Leader and Researcher. Ken has researched and developed 40 motivating seminar topics focusing on gaining professional and personal development through enhanced communication skills. Ken has given over 6,000 presentations over 20 years. He holds three Master degrees in the areas of Communication/Psychology, Western Michigan University, 1992; Science in Administration/Health Focus, Central Michigan University, 1990 and Business Management, Aquinas College, 1985. He also holds a Bachelor of Business, Michigan State University and an Associate in Marketing, Ferris State University, 1972. He is the author of the book entitled “Live Like You Mean It” (Helm Publishing) 2010 - Amazon 5 star recommended read.

Workshop Presenters

Leslie Boker
Community Lead for Healthy Pride
Healthy Pride LGBTQI+ Inclusion Resource Group At Spectrum Health
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: LGBTQ, Cultural Competency
Leslie Boker is a Cherry Health AmeriCorps member serving at Spectrum Health Community Medicine Clinic in Heartside Grand Rapids, filling the roles of Community Lead for Healthy Pride and volunteer Educational Consultant for the Grand Rapids Pride Center. Over the past seven years they have given more than 50 presentations as an LGBTQ+ educational speaker representing the non-binary part of the trans community.


Jessica Corwin, MPH, RDN
Community Nutrition Educator
Spectrum Health Healthier Communities
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Top Nutrition Trends and the Truth Behind the Label
Jessica graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics and completed her dietetic internship at Michigan State University. She spent five years working in school nutrition with Gordon Food Service before returning to Michigan State to attain her Master in Public Health. Jessica serves in the heart of the community by helping others eat right through cooking and nutrition classes throughout West Michigan. She also serves as the nutrition consultant for multiple nationwide magazines including Yum Food and Fun for Kids and Low Sugar Living. When she is not in the kitchen or behind the computer, she can usually be found hiking with her handsome husband and children.


Kristina Dawkins, MPH
Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Consultant
MI Department of Health and Human Services
Lansing, MI


Tina Malcolm, RN
Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Nurse
Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital
Big Rapids, MI


Emily Welles, RD
Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator
Spectrum Health Diabetes and Endocrinology
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: What’s Diabetes Got to Do with It? With Cardiovascular Disease, A Lot!
Kristina Dawkins is a Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Consultant for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She received a B.S. in Physiology and a Masters of Public Health from Michigan State University. In her current role, she supports the use of Community Health Workers, works on health system interventions, and assists with increasing community-clinical linkages. She is also a co-lead on Michigan’s state-level Million Hearts work.

Tina Malcolm is a Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab nurse at Spectrum Health’s Big Rapids Hospital. She started out years ago as a nurse’s aide, then worked in a laboratory before attending nursing school at Westshore Community College in 1989. She is very passionate about working with her cardiac rehab and pulmonary rehab patients, including teaching patients what they need to know to manage their conditions. Additionally, she enjoys teaching stress management to her patients and to the community.

Emily Welles is a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Spectrum Health Diabetes and Endocrinology. She has years of experience working as a dietitian, specializing in diabetes care, mental health and treating the whole person. Emily graduated from Michigan State University, University of Michigan Hospital system and is a current graduate student at Grand Valley State University. Emily enjoys cooking, yoga and walking her English bulldog with her husband.


Kim DeLaFuente, MA, ACSM-CPD
Community Health Educator
Spectrum Health Healthier Communities
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Sleep 101
Kim Delafuente, M.A. graduated from Michigan State University with a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Central Michigan University with a B.S. in Health Fitness in Preventative and Rehabilitative Programs.  Kim has worked in many roles over her career including cardiac rehabilitation, corporate wellness, and program development for community programs.  She has been an adjunct instructor at local universities for 14 years.  In her current role, Kim serves as the exercise content expert for the Healthier Communities Department at Spectrum Health.  She has co-authored 2 childhood obesity prevention and intervention programs and is certified through the American College of Sports Medicine as a Clinical Program Director.   Professional interests include childhood obesity prevention, health coaching, resistance training and clinical exercise.


Erik Fermin, LMSW, MPA
Community Health Educator
Spectrum Health Healthier Communities
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Uncovering the Refugee Process
Erik has a history of working alongside underserved communities, being himself a product of those communities, through engagement, advocacy, education and a commitment to life-long learning. Erik has served Latino, African American and refugee populations in his work of empowerment, and has facilitated men’s groups on subjects such as domestic violence and substance use. As part of Healthier Communities’ Education Team, Erik relies on his personal and learned experiences to inform and improve the services and delivery of knowledge throughout Spectrum Health and its partnering agencies in the Grand Rapids area.


Priscilla Hohmann, MSW, MDIV
MiCHWA Program Director

Rebecca Lindsay-Smith, MPH, CHES
MiCHWA Education & Registry Program Manager
Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance (MiCHWA)
Ann Arbor, MI


Presentation: MiCHWA’s Year of Growth: CHW Certification, CHW Education and CHW Sustainability Efforts
Priscilla Hohmann is the Program Director for the Michigan Community Health Worker Alliance (MiCHWA). In this role, she works to promote and sustain the integration of CHWs into health and human service organizations in Michigan in partnership with CHWs, CHW stakeholders, and organizations at the local, state, and national levels. She earned a Master of Social Work at the University of Michigan with a focus on health and health disparities, completing her clinical training at the University of Michigan Health System. Prior to that, she worked as a service learning director and high school teacher, connecting students  to local non-profit organizations to meet community needs through experiential service learning projects.. 

Rebecca Lindsay-Smith is the MiCHWA Education and Registry Program Manager, Rebecca manages MiCHWA CHW Training Program opportunities throughout the state, including curriculum development, certification, and evaluation. She manages the training and evaluation of MiCHWA CHW Instructors to expand the capacity of the MiCHWA CHW Training Program. Rebecca also manages development and implementation of the MiCHWA CHW Registry. Rebecca has a Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is a Certified Health Education Specialist. Prior to working with MiCHWA, Rebecca was a research project manager, focused on youth and young adult mental health, at the University of Michigan and a HealthCorps member at Cherry Health.

Ryan VerWys
President & CEO
Inner City Christian Federation
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Equitable Opportunity, Affordable Homes and Thriving Neighborhoods: Transforming Our Community’s Housing Narrative
Ryan VerWys started his career in Southern California with World Renew in 2000 as a community organizer and youth pastor in South Los Angeles and North Long Beach. From 2003-2014, he founded and directed a non-profit dedicated to ending homelessness through affordable housing, providing employment opportunities for returning citizens, and asset based community development in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. 

In 2015 he assumed his current role as CEO of Inner City Christian Federation where he serves alongside a team of talented people who are passionate about creating equitable opportunity and thriving neighborhoods through the creation and preservation of affordable housing.

Ryan received his Bachelors in Social Work from Calvin College in 2000 and is a 2003 graduate of the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative. Ryan lives in Garfield Park with his wife Rachel and their 4 children.  He loves spending time with his family, practicing hospitality and playing disc golf.


Members of the Grand Rapids Area Hoarding Task Force: Stephanie Hecksel, Area Agency on Aging, Officer Jeremy Huffman, Code Compliance Liaison Officer, Grand Rapids Police Department, Eric Jordan, Code Compliance Administrator, City of Grand Rapids and Officer Shelly Weiss, Grand Rapids Police Department, and

Kate Wert, LLMSW
Professional Organizer, Owner
Clean Slate by Kate
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Hoarding: A Community Approach
Presentation: Organizing for Emotional Health

Kate Wert, LLMSW, owner of Clean Slate by Kate runs a Professional Organizing business that centers on decluttering environments and the mind to enhance quality of life.  Her specialty is working with individuals that struggle with chronic disorganization and hoarding behaviors. She emphasizes creating a judgment-free zone and using a person-centered approach in her practice.

Kate is a GVSU School of Social Work Graduate with experience in diverse settings including low-income housing, children’s foster care, hospice, and schools. She is an active member with the Grand Rapids Area Hoarding Task Force and keeps in connection with local organizations to best meet the needs of those she serves. While she loves getting lost in the wilderness, she and her young son are at home residing in the City of Grand Rapids.


Cole Williams, BS
Cole Speaks, LLC
Grand Rapids, MI


Presentation: Strengthening Families and Fathers: Understanding the Impact of the Criminal Justice System on the Lives of Children and Incarcerated Fathers or Fathers on Probation/Parole
Cole Williams is the creator of Cole Speaks LLC and the project Director of the Evolution of a Son to a Father; which is a workshop series facilitated by Cole and his young adult son Nate. It is a moving and revelatory series of workshops and conversations that explores his journey. Cole Speaks, LLC also provides motivational, keynote and trainer presentations for agencies that support and empower underserved communities and families. In conjunction to “The Evolution of a Son to a Father,” Cole is a parent coach through the 17th District Family Court Division.

Cole Williams is a parent, mentor, and community leader in Grand Rapids Michigan. He has over ten years of experience working with adolescent males who come from abuse and neglectful backgrounds, and who have been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, RAD and many other diagnoses. 

Cole has also developed curricula that explore the journey of fatherhood for incarcerated fathers, teen fathers, and fathers in re-entry programing. Cole’s most recent work has been dedicated to providing fatherhood training, support, and materials for the Michigan Adolescent Pregnancy and Prevention Program (MI-APPP), the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center, and the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Panel Presenters

Presentation: Panel: The True Value of Food and Mental Health

Terri Kirkpatrick, CHW
Maternal Infant Health Program
Spectrum Health Healthier Communities
Grand Rapids, MI

Terri Kirkpatrick is a Community Health Worker with the Strong Beginnings Maternal Infant Health Program. Terri has worked as a Community Health Worker for the past 20 years. In this role, she works with low-income women, and their newborns, providing education, emotional support, health navigation, and mentoring life skills. Terri partners with nurses, social workers, and registered dietitians to provide a holistic approach to improving pregnancy outcomes, and reducing infant mortality. Terri is an advocate for CHWS at the state level and national levels and has been active with MiCHWA since its launch. Terri has served as co-chair for the Spectrum Health CHW conference, and in the past, was the chairman for 2 years. Terri also became a Certified Doula in 2015. As a Doula she partners with women who are socially isolated, and economically disadvantaged, Terri meets with those moms prenatally, and attends their birth.

Jennie Mills
Practice Manager and Chair, Healthy Pride IRG
Spectrum Health Medical Group
Grand Rapids, MI


Jennie is an insightful leader with over 16 years of health care experience.  She attended Grand Valley State University and studied Psychology with an emphasis on early childhood development. She holds an associate degree from Muskegon Community College, emphasis in Psychology.  Jennie has been a member of the following: Chair Spectrum Health Healthy Pride (LGBTQ+) Inclusion Resource Group, Board member for Grand Rapids Red Project and Critical Incident Stress Management Responder for Spectrum Health and currently sits on their strategic planning board. 

At present she is a Practice Manager at Spectrum Health Medical Group, Breast Care Services, and High Risk Breast Clinics. Jennie manages four clinics including support staff, patient concerns, and program expansion; among her other duty she leads process improvement initiatives, coordinates and oversees quality incentive programs, staff training and development. She also develops processes and programs to fit each practices unique characteristics.

Erin Skidmore, MEd
Good Food Systems Coordinator
Access of West Michigan
Grand Rapids, MI


Erin serves as the Good Food Systems Coordinator at Access of West Michigan and as a lunch chef at a local screen printing company. Erin believes that food is at the heart of most matters and if treated with reverence, food has the power to teach and connect.