The Speakers

Kwame Simmons

Kwame Simmons is the founder and senior facilitator of The Simmons Advantage, a consulting firm that partners to provide organizational change strategy, leadership development, and workforce development with emphasis on people with disabilities.

Mr. Simmons has spent over 20 years as a dynamic educator revolutionizing urban schools through an innovative approach. He has transformed schools in Detroit, Saint Louis, and the District of Columbia. His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding current research in leader practices, executive management, and organizational change make him a rarity in education.

Mr. Simmons has worked tirelessly to turn urban schools into national models of success while creating a motivating atmosphere designed to raise student achievement and organizational outcomes. He has received national recognition for his efforts from the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Education, and the 2015 BET Honors Award for Excellence in Education.

Mr. Simmons is a proud product of the Detroit Public School System. He received his undergraduate degree from Hampton University in History and graduate degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University, in Organizational Development and Leadership and Macdonough School of Business, Georgetown University an Executive Masters in Education.

DeAndre Carter

DeAndre Carter is a proud father, award winning speaker, corporate trainer, author, and entrepreneur. He has become recognized as a motivational force as he challenges people to demand greatness at every step in life.

DeAndre comes from humble beginnings. His dedication to personal excellence inspired him to become the first person in his family to graduate from a four year university. His degree from Michigan State University is a testament to his resilience and ability to thrive, despite the presence of adverse circumstances.

DeAndre has been defined as powerful, progressive and innovative. As an entrepreneur, his mission is to challenge society as he creates new learning platforms and tirelessly works with institutes and corporations to promote excellence.

“Success is yours” is the reality that DeAndre lives by, and he will stop at nothing to ensure he shares this reality with the world.

Jonathan Lawrence

Jonathan is a native of Lansing, Michigan, where he currently lives with his wife and 4 daughters. He recently served as the Fatherhood Facilitator for Ingham County’s Strong Start Healthy Start where he provided case management to fathers and hosted fatherhood workshops, events, and community collaborations. He has provided trainings across Michigan on effectively engaging fathers. Jonathan holds a BSW and MSW-Clinical from Michigan State University and is currently working in private practice as a therapist.

Jonathan wants to be known for contributing to positive change in someone’s life and for you to remember: It’s Ok To Heal.

Jason Cross

Jason Cross currently serves as the State Manager for ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) Compliance and Race Equity for MDHHS. Jason also brings experience from the tribal government sector having most recently served as the Director of Family Services, Behavioral Health, Members Assistance, and the Next Generation Learning Center for the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians from 2015 to 2021. He was responsible for developing, planning, implementing, directing, and evaluating the service delivery to individuals and families with emphasis on individual self-sufficiency, prevention, reunification, advocacy, and coordination of resources in the Tribal community. Jason has also served as the Tribal Co-chair for the Tribal-State Partnership for over four years.

Jason is an enrolled member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in social work from Michigan State University with a focus on organizational and community leadership. The Children’s Advocacy Center of Michigan awarded Jason the Champion of Advocacy award in 2019.

Hon. Gregory Pittman

Hon. Gregory Pittman has served as a judge in the Muskegon County, Michigan, Family Division since 1998. Judge Pittman served on the Governor’s Task Force for Children’s Justice, 2005-2011. He led the Muskegon County STAY Project effort, which serves to stem the “School to Prison” pipeline. Before being appointed as a judge, he worked for: the Michigan Department of Commerce, the Kent County Public Defender’s Office, and in private practice.

Judge Pittman is the 2001 recipient of the Michigan Family Forum’s “Champion of the Family” award, was honored as the 2014 "Living Legend" award winner at the 103.7 FM BEAT Awards, and in 2018 was selected as “Jurist of the Year” by the Michigan CASA Association.

Norman Young & Dr. Shayla Young

Norman Young is a Grand Rapids native who has served Muskegon area schools for over ten years. He graduated from Baker College with a degree in Human Services and has diligently worked his way up within Muskegon schools, starting as a substitute high school teacher. Norman now serves as the coordinator for the Dads on Deck fatherhood engagement program with the Muskegon Area Intermediate School District. This program serves 11 Early Head Start sites, encouraging and supporting fathers in being a part of their child’s educational success. His advocacy for fathers transcends beyond the classroom as he hosts an annual fatherhood summit in the Muskegon area, connecting fathers to helpful resources and information. Norman is a father to a beautiful 8-year-old girl and values spending time with his wife and child.

Dr. Shayla Young is a Grand Rapids native with a commitment to education. Shayla completed her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Administration in May 2020 and serves as the director for the T2C Studio: GR Center for College Success. Prior to coming back to Grand Rapids, Shayla graduated from The Ohio State University with her Bachelor of Social Work (2012) and a Master of Educational Leadership and Administration from Purdue University (2015). Her growing expertise is rooted in elevating the voices and needs of young people and creating active partnerships to support local youth. Shayla is a woman of faith and strives to be a Godly wife, mother (mumzie), daughter, and sister above all.

Dwayne Barnes

Dwayne Barnes is a self-described “scholar, gentleman, and musician.” His professional work is based on empowering communities to save themselves through education, entrepreneurship, the arts, and policy.

He currently serves the Michigan League for Public Policy as the Community Engagement Analyst for Metro Detroit. Prior to joining the League, Dwayne provided engagement strategy and urban outreach for the Center for Michigan and Bridge magazine, a nonprofit and nonpartisan think-and-do tank. In 2013, Dwayne was the recipient of the Spirit of Detroit award for his work with Project: Better Man, Inc., a prostate cancer awareness, education, and prevention organization in Detroit. Dwayne is also the Chair of Recruitment for New Leaders Council - Detroit Chapter.

In 2017, Dwayne earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Oakland University. He also holds a BS in African American Studies from Eastern Michigan University. Dwayne is married to Doria Barnes and has two children, Dwayne Barnes III and Dylan Barnes.

Cole Williams | Kingz Table

Cole Williams (Kingz Table panel facilitator) is a Motivational Speaker, Fatherhood Consultant, Facilitator, and most importantly a Father. His most recent work has been dedicated to providing fatherhood training, support, and materials for the Michigan Adolescent Pregnancy and Prevention Program (MI-APPP), as well as penetrating the culture of the Kent County Juvenile Detention Center, where he provides life skills and leadership development to incarcerated youth.

Alfred Fowler is a speaker, mentor, father, and member of the Kingz Table.

Civi Mahdi is a mentor, consultant, speaker, father, and member of the Kingz Table.

Troy Heintzelman is the Relationship Manager at 70 x 7 Life Recovery, a father, and a member of the Kingz Table.

Dr. Kwame Francis

Dr. Kwame Francis is a graduate of and Associate Professor of Medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine. He's served as a family physician at Ascension St. John for over a decade and oversees clinical competency for resident physicians. Dr. Francis is the Assistant Pastor for Breakers Covenant Church International. He has been married to his wife Nikisha for 19 years and together they have five children. Some of Dr. Francis’ other interests are community outreach and development.

Dr. Maria Muzik & Mike Acosta

Associate Professor, University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Co-Director, Women and Infants Mental Health Program (WIMHP)

Co-Director, Zero to Thrive

Mike Acosta is a licensed master social worker and also endorsed by the Michigan Association for infant mental health has a policy mentor. He is a private practice therapist in Traverse City with prior experience working in child welfare, community mental health, school social work, and community advocacy.

Adnoris "Bo" Torres

Adnoris “Bo” Torres is an educator with a passion for the Latinx Community. During his professional career he has served as an experienced program coordinator, manager, and executive director with a demonstrated history of working to remove existing barriers for all historically marginalized persons. Bo co-created the Padres Fuertes Initiative, an initiative within the National Healthy Start Program Strong Beginnings which aims to affect the lives of Latinos Fathers /Father figures in Kent County. He has served as the Executive Director of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, forging an understanding of the importance of the organization in the community and impacting those in most need during the most crucial stages of the covid-19 pandemic.

Shon Hart

Shon Hart is a married father of three, a certified Eric Thomas, Game Changer, motivational speaker and an authority on fatherhood. He is the founder and Executive Director of InvolvedDad, where he strengthens families through father engagement. His organization provides various front-line and gap services that impact and transform families and communities. Despite Shon not excelling in high school academically, he used the negativity of others to take control of his life and earn an athletic scholarship and degree from Michigan State University. He later authored 5 books; his most well-known is From Average to Elite. With his energetic and infectious personality, he is driven to help those he serves to grow from the inside out to dominate their lanes. The motto he lives by is, “Don’t chase the bag (money), chase your assignment; the bag is wrapped in your assignment!”

Matt Haviland

Matt is the Men’s Center Director for Alpha Grand Rapids (AGR). He joined the team at the beginning of 2021, and has been working with fathers since 2008 through a variety of organizations and partnerships. Matt empowers AGR staff and volunteers to walk alongside fathers and equip them to be the best man, partner, and father possible. He is deeply passionate about discipling men and understands how valuable fathers are to their families and communities. He is married to his amazing wife, Christy, is the father of a wonderful teenage daughter, and is currently in the adoption process.

Terrance Grantham

Event Emcee

Terrance is a brother, son, father of 3, and husband of 5 years. With his degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Michigan State University, and life experience, he has been able to navigate fatherhood in a very insightful way. He served as the Fatherhood Facilitator for Ingham County’s Strong Start Healthy Start for 3 years before he and his family relocated to the Metro Detroit area where he accepted the Fatherhood Coordinator position with the Detroit Healthy Start Program through the Institute for Population Health. This job has shown him a passion for fatherhood advocacy he did not know he had. And it has allowed him to impact an audience of parents, colleagues, and peers with information, inspiration, and encouragement.