During this panel discussion, participants will have the opportunity to hear from a variety of community leaders and experts in education, philanthropy, business and civil service about the importance of giving back, building talent and the benefits of networking within the community.
Joseph D. Jones currently serves in a dual capacity as President/CEO of the Grand Rapids Urban League and President/CEO of E.E. Milestone + Associates, Inc. As leader of the Grand Rapids Urban League, Jones leads the development and implementation of an agenda that promotes economic empowerment as a means of elevating the standard of living in the underserved urban communities of Grand Rapids. The League is a 69-year old civil rights organization who’s mission is to provide the means to empower African Americans and other minorities to achieve economic self-reliance, parity and civil rights. Their vision is to be the leader, and preeminent agency in West Michigan effectively utilizing diverse and abundant resources to redress racial injustice and promote racial equality.
E.E. Milestone + Associates, Inc., Jones offers a very unique base of experience working with organizations within industries such as healthcare, public education, construction, telecommunications, sports + entertainment, philanthropy, community development, faith-based and human services spanning over 12 years. E.E. Milestone + Associates, Inc. is a purpose-driven consultancy whose mission is to add value and wisdom to organizations in the areas of strategic communications and cultural competence.
Jones is committed to the community, and currently serves on a number of boards including: Economic Club of Grand Rapids, Chemical Bank – Grand Rapids Community Advisory Board, SNV, LLC, St. Mary’s Community Benefit Ministry, and the Kent County Collective Impact Steering Committee. His professional experience includes over 10 years of service in his native city of Detroit in the non-profit sector as a community organizer, program coordinator and project manager. Prior to Milestone, Joseph was the Managing Partner of Strategic Communications Group, LLC, a consulting firm providing communication strategies to a myriad of industries. Joseph holds a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Oakland University and is currently studying for his Master’s in Ministry Leadership at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary.
Joseph is a seasoned facilitator, trainer and public speaker. Joe and Jessie are the parents of four children (Eric, Erica, Miles and Micaela) and grandparents of two grandsons (Elijah and Isaiah).
Mrs. Arelis Diaz is a program officer for the Office of the President, reporting to La June Montgomery Tabron, at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan.
In this role, she is responsible for identifying and nurturing opportunities for affecting positive systemic change within communities, and executing programming efforts that are aligned with the organizational direction. She leads WKKF’s corporate responsibility efforts and special initiatives of the president and CEO, on behalf of the organization.
Arelis joined the foundation in December 2010 as a program officer working with the Education & Learning and Family Economic Security teams. She managed and monitored a portfolio of PK-12 educational grants, providing technical assistance to grantees on model development, partnership negotiations, leadership capacity building and coaching. In this role, she also led the PK-12 education strategy in WKKF priority places of New Mexico, Mississippi, as well as Grand Rapids and Battle Creek in Michigan. Some of her notable accomplishments include forming a coalition of grantees to focus on the accreditation system that will impact teacher preparation around the strategic areas: cultural and linguistic needs, family engagement, equity and early childhood. Furthermore, she formed strong collaborative networks within the education work, and developed cross-system networks among various strategies and approaches to increase the educational success and stability of families.
AJ is a native of Grand Rapids, Michigan who returned home intentionally in 2014 to empower local youth. He earned his Bachelors in Business from Western Michigan University with a concentration in Marketing. While in college, AJ was able to join Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity, studied abroad in London, England, and started Endless Opportunities during his senior year in college. AJ is Co-Founder of The Midwest Tech Project in 2015 to connect inner city youth to the world of technology and tech related industry.
A quote AJ lives by is “When you stay ready, you never have to get ready” ~T.I.
Co-Owner of a few different companies, including GR USA, an apparel company based on hometown spirit, celebrating the culture and history of Grand Rapids. Co-Founder and CEO of the Midwest Tech Project, a nonprofit entity developed to create awareness and training and increase diversity within West Michigan’s technology industry. Also co-owner of Empower Michigan, an urban initiative that focuses on improving inner city neighborhoods and business districts.
Flip the coin that is Jonathan Jelks and you find on one side a businessman, fiercely committed to improving his city, and on the other a man who loves to talk brand crushes like Ralph Lauren, Moschino, Versace and Gucci. He’s constantly trying to figure out what kind of suit and tie Sean Connery’s James Bond might wear. This comes out in his style: part-street, part-suit, all dashing.
Megan currently serves as the Assistant City Manager for the City of Wyoming. In her role, Megan oversees economic development, downtown development, communications and other duties for the City.
Prior to returning to the City of Wyoming, Megan tried her hand in the business world, serving in project management and sales roles with CQL, a local software development firm. Before taking that step out, she spent over a decade working in the public and nonprofit sector – most recently with The Right Place, Inc, the local economic development organization representing Kent County and other parts of the region. Her career also includes time with International City/County Management Association (ICMA) in Washington, DC, where she worked on a USAID project in Afghanistan. Megan has worked on several state and congressional campaigns, and she got her start in local government at the City of Wyoming where she served in administrative and economic development positions.
Megan holds a B.A. in International Relations and an M.P.A. from Grand Valley State University. She remains close to the university, serving on the Board of Trustees, the Alumni Chapter for the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, and as a mentor for the Cook Leadership Academy. Megan also co-chairs the fundraising committee for Grand Rapids Whitewater.
In conjunction with her professional pursuits, Megan is a traveler, foodie, eternal optimist and extreme extrovert. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, loves discussing great ideas, and constantly looks for ways to connect all of the amazing people and opportunities here in our community.