Alumni Profile: Kelvin Jackson

Posted by: DVULI | April 21, 2023

by Kimberlee Mitchell, Staff 

► ALUMNI: Kelvin Jackson (Grand Rapids 1998) 
► ORGANIZATION: Grand Rapids Covenant House of Michigan 

How did you know you were called to reach this generation of youth? 

My mentor since high school challenged me to start giving back. So, in my sophomore year of college, I accepted a job as a camp counselor at Camp Streamside in the Poconos, Pennsylvania. The only African American counselor on staff and a city kid from New Jersey, I was not the outdoorsy type, but God had other plans for me. When I returned home, I was unrecognizable by my hometown friends. My mom said the hand of the Lord was on me, and that was when I had my “aha” moment. I realized youth ministry was not a job—it was my way of living. I’ve worked with youth for 38 years.

Tell us about your youth program and how you fulfill its mission.

Grand Rapids Covenant House of Michigan is a homeless shelter that serves youth ages 18–24. Since 1972, Covenant House has served more than 1.5 million young people experiencing homelessness and trafficking. In 34 cities across six countries, more than 2,000 young people sleep in a Covenant House bed each night. No one is turned away without some kind of support and services that are available at no cost to the youth.

My personal mission statement is to help young people have “aha” moments that glorify God. I enjoy speaking positive words into the lives of young people and helping equip them with the tools to be self-sufficient.

What do you hope to accomplish while you serve in this capacity? 

I hope to be a beacon of hope for the young people in this community. I aim to set the right example for them and provide them with tools so they will not need outside help in satisfying their basic needs, especially regarding housing. Through a strengths-based, trauma-informed practice model, refined over time through decades of outcome data, we empower young people to overcome adversity and provide long-term support to thrive.

What challenges have you or the organization had to overcome?

One of the largest barriers our youth experience is access to mental health services. Although Covenant House meets immediate needs for food, clothing, safety, and medical care, providing mental health care is the biggest challenge.

What are you most proud of that the program has accomplished?

We are proud of the number of young people we have been able to serve. Covenant House plays an important role in Grand Rapids because the youth who come through our doors for guidance leave having obtained the goals they created with their case managers and support staff.

What collaborative opportunities benefit this work?

Covenant House collaborates with Mel Trotter Ministries, AYA Youth Collective, Continuum of Care, and other community agencies. Together we can address the needs of unhoused young people sooner than we could alone. Our youth sign a release of information, giving this coalition of agencies permission to share information to efficiently meet our client’s needs. Instead of receiving assistance from one agency, our youth receive assistance from [a diverse] team.

What can your DVULI family be praying for as you move forward?

Please pray God will continue to keep our doors open so we can serve the young people of our communities. Pray God continues to bless those who continue to give to this ministry.