Breakout Session Speakers
Below we have included a brief biography about the gifted individuals that have united to be part of "Uniting Against Abuse" conference. Click the Breakout Session number to gain insight into the breakout sessions offered during the conference.
Rev. Nicholas Hopkins - Breakout Session #1
Rev. Nicholas Hopkins was ordained as the Pastor of Shawnee Park Christian Reformed Church in 2012, after serving as Shawnee Park’s Ministry Coordinator (2010).
Before coming to Shawnee Park, Pastor Nick served as the Choir Director and a Worship Leader at Madison Square Church. Pastor Nick earned his Bachelors in Communication from Calvin College (2007) and a Master of Divinity, focusing on Church Leadership and Pastoral Care, from Calvin Theological Seminary (2012).
Wibke Rees - Breakout Session #2
Wibke Rees, a native German, is a pastor’s wife and a mother of six children, two of whom are victims of abuse and were adopted out of the foster care system.
As a teenager, Wibke struggled with an eating disorder and depression that almost took her life. In finding Christ, Wibke discovered the power to live free from her life-controlling addictions and is on staff at Central Wesleyan Church leading the Celebrate Recovery ministry. In her spare time she runs marathons and ultra-marathons.
Darcy Komejan - Breakout Session #3
As the founding director of the Children’s Advocacy Center in 1998, Darcy spent her professional career working in the child welfare system.
She is passionate about bettering the lives of children and families and working with an outstanding staff and multi-disciplinary team committed to the task. Darcy's commitment to children both regionally and nationally has her involved as the Non-Profit Division Chair for Greater Ottawa County United Way, Treasurer for the Michigan Chapter of the National Children's Alliance, and board member for the Peaceful Hearts Foundation. Darcy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Management. She has lived in the Holland area most of her life and is the proud mother of one daughter and one grand daughter.
Shyra Williams - Breakout Session #3
Shyra Williams is a Michigan native. She began her career as an MSW Intern for the Children’s Advocacy Center and knew immediately this was what she wanted to do with her life work.
Shyra graduated with her MSW from Grand Valley State University in 2004. Since that time Shyra has received extensive training focused on the impacts of trauma on the brain and body. Her passion is expressive arts. Shyra is trained in TF-CBT, SITCAP, and regularly utilizes play, art, and sand tray. Shyra enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Outdoors is where she recharges and you can find her with her family running, kayaking, hiking, and enjoying time on the lakeshore.
Danielle Lucksted - Breakout Session #4
Danielle Lucksted, MA is the Prevention and Education Program Manager at Safe Haven Ministries, a comprehensive domestic violence organization in Grand Rapids, where she has worked for two years.
As Program Manager, she researches, compiles, and facilitates various trainings and presentations on dating and domestic abuse as well as protocol recommendations for local businesses, nonprofits, and places of faith. She also runs the Teen Dating Violence Prevention program in area schools. Danielle is a mentor for Young Leaders Against Violence-- a youth-led initiative in Kent County-- and is an active member of the Kent County Sexual Assault Prevention Action Team, Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team, and Human Trafficking Task Force. Danielle earned her BS in psychology and BA in English from Grand Valley State University, and her MA in human rights from University College London.
Ashley Schulte - Breakout Session #5
Ashley Schulte received both her B.A in Public and Nonprofit Administration and M.Ed. in College Student Affairs Leadership from Grand Valley State University.
Ashley works with violence prevention, education, advocacy, and response to sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, and stalking. She is involved in campus and community committees and campaigns to create positive change as it relates to gender-based violence. Additionally, Ashley is a #LakerForALifetime and realizes #ItsOnUsGVSU to change campus culture.
Sara Bazydlo - Breakout Session #5
Sara Bazydlo received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hope College and Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan.
Sara develops, plans, organizes, delivers and assesses educational programs focusing on sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking. She also advises the Students Teaching and Empowering Peers (STEP) Educator program which she helped create while a student at Hope College. Sara also serves as an advocate providing confidential care and services to students who have experience interpersonal violence. She strives to create a campus community where violence isn’t tolerated and everyone does their part to help.
Bob VandePol - Breakout Session #6
Bob VandePol serves as Director of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services' Employee Assistance Program. He helps business leaders leverage behavioral health expertise to enhance the health and productivity of their work teams.
Active as a keynote speaker and author, his areas of particular interest include suicide prevention, leading mission-driven teams, and facilitating individual and organizational resilience after tragedies.
Sarah Prout Rennie - Breakout Session #7
Sarah Prout Rennie, J.D., is the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (MCEDSV) Interim Assistant Director and Policy Attorney.
She is instrumental in developing and implementing the MCEDSV statewide policy agenda, which seeks to enhance the response to domestic and sexual violence survivors.
Prior to joining the MCEDSV staff, Ms. Rennie was Executive Director for the Michigan Council of Women and Technology (MCWT) whose mission is to advance women and girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields, particularly technology. She is former Executive Director of Blue Water Safe Horizons, Port Huron, and served as Litigation Director for Lakeshore Legal Aid for fifteen years. During Ms. Rennie’s time as litigation director, the empowerment philosophy of Lakeshore’s representation to domestic violence and sexual assault victims become a nationally recognized model for holistic legal advocacy.
One of Ms. Rennie’s most commendable achievements while at Lakeshore Legal Aid, was the successful appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit on a case of first impression that provided survivors of sexual assault, and other victims of crimes, with full immunity from later being sued by the alleged perpetrator for cooperating with law enforcement. [Moldowan v City of Warren et al, 580 F.3d 698 (2009)]. She defended the survivor over more than three years of litigation, protecting the client each step of the way from intrusive and appalling attempts to discover her sexual history, medical history and to relive the horror of that night to find inconsistencies in her story.
While at Blue Waters Safe Horizons, Ms. Rennie expanded services to seamlessly address the unique issues facing survivors of domestic violence in the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Trangender community, and presented trainings to attorneys, counselors and advocates on recognizing and removing systemic barriers facing LGBT survivors. In 2009, she began a program to address and prevent domestic violence against women later in life.
Ms. Rennie has been a trainer for MCOLES (Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards) on sexual assault and domestic violence since 2009, and is also a FLETC (Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers) certified trainer on elder abuse. She is the author of numerous articles that have been included in the Michigan Family Law Journal on human trafficking, meeting the needs of rural LGBT survivors, elder abuse and child custody and domestic violence. Ms. Rennie’s work on economic justice has also been published in the Michigan State Bar Journal and the Management Information Exchange Journal, and her article on the fundamental right to parent was featured in the Wayne State Law Review, Fall 2010. Her work with trauma informed care of survivors of violence in the criminal justice system has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the Detroit News and on ABC news.
Christopher Rennie - Breakout Session #7
Christopher Rennie, MLIS, is a librarian & information professional for one of the world’s largest creators of educational & research databases.
He is also candidate for a Master’s of Arts in Theology from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. Christopher is a nationally recognized trainer and has over 25 years of experience working with and for faith-based groups on social justice.
Mr. Rennie’s commitment to service started with his friendship with Mrs. Eleanor Josaitis, co-founder along with Rev. William Cunningham of Focus:HOPE, a Detroit-based civil rights and human service organization that engages a multi-dimensional effort to combat poverty and injustice within Detroit. His work through Focus:HOPE has included childhood education & literacy and work with disadvantaged seniors, including food delivery and case management.
Mr. Rennie also spent 8 years of his life working in the HIV/AIDS crisis, as advocate, case manager, minister, and companion. He worked to serve affected individuals and communities in Milwaukee, Detroit, and even internationally, serving in a variety of positions at Medical College of Wisconsin, AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, Midwest AIDS Training & Education Center, and the City of Detroit Health Department.
Beyond his social justice work, Mr. Rennie is also a talented technologist and educator, having served as the Assistant Director for the Edmund Cardinal Szoka Theological Library, the Network Manager for the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Library Director for St. Clair County Community College, and several others.
Mr. Rennie’s advocacy, writing, and charitable work has been recognized in multiple spheres and on multiple occasions. In 10 years of Jesuit education, Mr. Rennie’s work in both academic theology and social justice work awarded him through his with both the Jesuit Secondary Education Association Award and the Alpha Sigma Nu Jesuit Honor Society Alumni Award. Mr. Rennie’s work was also recognized outside the faith community, and he was awarded the “top of the Hill” award from the Detroit City Council President Gill Hill for his service to Detroit & the impact of his work with inner city seniors.
Holly Seymour - Breakout Session #8
Holly Seymour, MS, is the Program Director at Center for Women in Transition.
Holly Seymour is responsible for the management and administrative oversight of a broad range of services for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, including the agency’s emergency shelter, 24 hour helpline, supportive housing programs, legal advocacy, sexual assault forensic nurse examiner program, support groups, and trauma therapy programming for adults and children.
More than 3,000 individuals and their families receive services through the lakeshore-based organization each year. Before moving to West Michigan in 2008, Holly spent time managing a large domestic violence safe house on Chicago’s west side and served in various capacities at both national and community-based non-profit organizations in Lansing and Chicago. She has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science and a master’s degree in Family and Community Services, both from Michigan State University. She has also completed graduate level coursework in the non-profit leadership program at Grand Valley State University. Holly is currently the chair of the Ottawa Allegan Human Trafficking Task Force and has been involved in collaborative efforts with the Tri-Cities Mental Health Service Providers Coalition, United Way’s Basic Needs Think Tank, Ottawa Housing Next, and the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence’s LGBTQ Task Force. She has been a featured speaker on college campuses and has trained faith leaders, community groups, and the business community on how to recognize and respond to domestic violence. Holly has been called on to be an expert witness in domestic violence cases and has presented workshops at conferences in Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Florida, and Montreal.
Dr. Douglas Kindschi - Breakout Session #9
Dr. Douglas Kindschi, Ph.D is now in his 41st year at Grand Valley State University, served in the position of dean for 28 of those years.
He is currently University Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy and the Director of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute. While Dean of Science he was responsible for 14 departments including the basic sciences, mathematics, computer science, the School of Engineering, the School of Health Professions and the Water Resources Research Institute. In August, 2015, Grand Valley named its new science building the P. Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science recognizing his role in advancing the sciences at the university. From January to July 2013 he was a visiting fellow at the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme at Cambridge University in England. In 2016 he returned to Cambridge for the spring term where he was a visiting fellow at St. Edmund’s College.
He is responsible for community-based interfaith engagement and dialogue activities, networking faith and non-faith congregations and organizations, and facilitating the efforts of the Interfaith Service Council and its task forces. Originally from Southwestern Pennsylvania, Kyle has spent several years exploring asset-based community development and organizational capacity building in various contexts, addressing generational poverty and food insecurity as an AmeriCorps/VISTA. He is presently completing a Master of Divinity at Calvin Theological Seminary.
Rebecca McDonald - Breakout Session #10
Becky McDonald, founder and president of Women At Risk, International, has spent over three decades in the fight to rescue at-risk women and children and lift them to lives of dignity and worth.
As the daughter of a missionary doctor, Becky spent her childhood in the jungles of Bangladesh. At 14, Becky’s Bengali playmate was found wounded, raped, and unable to speak due to the acid used to silence her cries.
The acid of her suffering burned a hole in Becky’s heart and set her on a course of action to become a voice for the voiceless and a safe place for the wounded. Though the women of the veil are the women of Becky’s heart, she has expanded her circles of safety to include women at risk in over 40 countries—whether Asian women sold into sexual slavery, widows of the Kosovo war, or American women silently suffering or deeply searching for the True and Living God.
As a teenager, Becky attended boarding school in Pakistan, in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Here the cold isolation pushed her to the pages of Scripture, to the God of all comfort, a confidant and friend. This blossoming love of the Word grew and matured in college as she studied Philosophy/World Religions and Elementary Education at Cornerstone and Calvin College. She then pursued graduate work at Michigan State while her husband, Phil, attended seminary and completed his PhD in International Development. Becky and Phil then served as missionaries in Asia for 13 years. Here the earliest programs of Women At Risk, Int’l began in Becky’s kitchen, as she rocked wounded women and desperately sought God to help her whisper words of worth and healing into deep brokenness.
Eventually, their children’s persistent medical problems forced Becky and Phil to fly back to the States. Becky returned discouraged, though she now looks back on those stateside years as yet another training ground. It was a precious pocket of time to raise her four children in a forested, friendly neighborhood and plunge into women’s ministry within the American church. Here Becky found that the women in her living room Bible study felt the same soul sorrow as the women of her heart and childhood, the women of the veil. Her heart broke for the often quiet suffering of these American wives and mothers. She began tailoring her studies to speak to their searching or insecurity, to tenderly offer Truth and hope through passionate study of Scripture and prayer. Before long, Becky’s studies began morphing into “sessions” as she started planning and speaking at women’s conferences, retreats and events.
Years later, within her husband’s organization Becky continued to build her overseas projects under the name of Women At Risk. After its rapid growth and success—and especially Becky’s empty nest—she officially incorporated Women At Risk, Int’l in 2006.
Since the formal launch of WAR, Int’l, Becky balances her travel and speaking schedule with her deep desire to plant herself in her wingback chair and study Scripture, consult commentaries, and look up words in her Greek and Hebrew lexicons. Her conferences and workshops are a unique blend of her love of word studies and exegesis, international experience and stories, and profound understanding of suffering and risk.
Becky is a humorous, seasoned, and highly-sought after speaker who travels the world and America, sharing her passion with churches, universities, law enforcement, legal and medical societies, Interpol, and Homeland Security. She is also a firm believer in the power of humor in the face of darkness and crisis. She has spoken in intimate settings such as Christmas teas and Mother-Daughter banquets as well as large-scale events such as national anti-trafficking conferences in Washington D.C. When Becky isn’t speaking or traveling, you might find her eating Indian food with her family or buying toys at Cracker Barrel for her grandchildren.
Rev. Nancy Boelens - Breakout Session #11
Rev. Nancy Boelens, retired Methodist Pastor, and her two sons were victims of domestic abuse. She turned to the church and was denied the help she needed.
Later God called her into ministry to equip faith communities with healing for Christian families suffering of abuse. Nancy is the author of two books and has been devoted for the last 25 years to make a difference in breaking that silence.
Lesley A. Coghill - Breakout Session #12
Lesley Coghill, LMSW is the Prevention and Outreach Coordinator at Center for Women in Transition and has worked at the Center since 2003.
She provides violence prevention assessments and consultation to K-12 schools and coordinates the agency’s outreach and community education services. Lesley is a licensed macro-level social worker, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Hope College in 2001 and a Master of Social Work degree from Grand Valley State University in 2003. Lesley has provided training opportunities on intimate partner violence prevention to K-12 schools and universities, faith-based programs, businesses, and various organizations in the community. She led the effort in Ottawa County to develop a domestic violence primary prevention plan in 2008 and helped to develop the MI prevention plan. Lesley has been an active member of the Lakeshore Alliance Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (LAADSV) coordinated community response committee since 2004. She received the 2009 Outstanding Agency Professional Award in Ottawa County from LAADSV and the 2013 Wave of Change Award from the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence for outstanding service in preventing domestic and sexual violence.
Cindy Westcott - Breakout Session #13
Cindy Westcott is the Clinical Director at Onsite, a clinic that provides a safe, loving, family environment where guests can break the cycles that hold them back and rediscover themselves and their relationships.
Westcott is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and her experience includes more than 22 years in private practice as founder of The Psychological Trauma and Wellness Center of Memphis. She has also developed and facilitated inpatient specialty programs for suicide prevention and for the treatment of complicated grief and PTSD for three different hospitals. She has expanded and facilitated IOP programs for adults and partial hospitalization programs for the treatment of traumatic grief and traumatic stress. Westcott is a level 2 EMDR trained clinician and also utilizes other innovative therapies such as Internal Family Systems, Gestalt and Ego State Experiential therapies, EFT, and others to address the acute and long term effects of childhood neglect and other forms of trauma and abuse. Cindy has spoken nationally on a variety of topics including cultural diversity, women and empowerment, adult children of alcoholics, eating disorders and trauma, and other topics related to grief and trauma recovery.
Mat Klemp - Breakout Session #14
Mat Klemp is a therapist and clinical supervisor at the YWCA West Central Michigan.
For the past 15 years he has provided treatment for child and adult victims and perpetrators of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence. He also coordinates and co-facilitates the YW’s Batterer Intervention Program, Men Choosing Alternatives to Violence for men who have been abusive in intimate partner relationships. He has years of experience working with men to improve accountability and develop greater empathy for the people in their lives.
Mat is also a member and happy worshiper at Trinity Reformed Church on Grand Rapids’ west side and finds his faith and faith community an important part of his work in the field of ending violence.
Ruth Scholff - Breakout Session #15
Ruth Schoff, L.L.M.S.W. - Protective Hands Family Advocate, Safe Haven Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI
Ruth came to Safe Haven Ministries in 2001. Her experience on behalf of abused women includes working in residential shelters, facilitating support groups, and providing legal advocacy services.. She enjoys working with women, making a difference in their life and safety. She has worked in the field of domestic violence for over 25 years. During this time Ruth established a program working with men who batter and served on Michigan’s Batterer Intervention Task Force, which created standards for batterer intervention programs across the state. She has also taught at Kirtland Regional Police Academy, training recruits about the nature and prevalence of domestic violence. Ruth is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Wisconsin State University at Whitewater.
Nita Belles - Breakout Session #16
Nita Belles is the managing director of the nonprofit In Our Backyard and the regional director of Central Oregonians Against Trafficking Humans (OATH).
She works across the nation, helping victims and survivors of human trafficking, and raising awareness about modern slavery. She holds a masters degree in theology with a concentration in women’s concerns.
Tara Aday - Breakout Session #17
Tara Aday is the Program Director at Safe Haven Ministries, a comprehensive domestic violence agency. In her role at Safe Haven, she oversees the residential and nonresidential programs, as well as the prevention and education program.
Tara provides leadership to the day-to-day operations of Safe Haven as well as its long-term strategic plan, which includes program development, program evaluation, and staff supervision. Tara serves on numerous community task forces and coalitions, including her role as Treasurer of the Domestic Violence Community Coordinated Response Team. Graduating with a degree in Journalism and Political Science from GVSU, Tara went on to earn her Master of Public Administration with a focus on nonprofit management and leadership from GVSU. Tara is passionate about community engagement and issues of gender justice, and has experience working in these arenas at the local and national level.