Center For Educational Partnerships Team

The Center For Educational Partnerships team at Hemlock Crossing Park in West Olive for the August 2021 staff retreat. 

Jessica Vander Ark

Jessica Vander Ark, Groundswell Manager

Jessica Vander Ark earned her Bachelor's in Group Science & Geology, with elementary and 6th through 8th grade science certification at Grand Valley State University and has more than 15 years of experience as an educator, coach, and green team leader. Prior to joining Groundswell, she served as the Director of Environmental Education at West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) where she expanded their environmental educational programs such as Teach for the Watershed and Zero Waste in Landfill. Jessica lives with her husband and children in Spring Lake.

Office Address: 356 DeVos Building C

Phone: (616) 331-6804

Email: [email protected]

Clay Pelon

Clayton Pelon, Director of Center for Educational Partnerships

Clayton Pelon is the Director in the Center for Educational Partnerships in the College of Education and Community Innovation at Grand Valley State University. He holds a Masters in Higher Education Administration and a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from Michigan State University. Clayton is the Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI on many of the Groundswell grants. He served on the original team in 2008 that developed the idea for Groundswell and has been heavily involved since. As a child he hiked with his grandmother and participated in Boy Scouts, which led to his deep appreciation of the natural world.

Office Address: 362 DeVos Building C

Phone: (616) 331-6813

Email: [email protected]

Veda Hodges

Veda Hodges, Office Coordinator

Veda Hodges is the Office Coordinator for the Center for Educational Partnerships. She has been with Groundswell since its inception in 2008. She processes all of the invoices, project funding requests, and reimbursements, as well as helping out with other tasks when needed. Veda loves the interaction the teachers and Groundswell staff have with the students and believes place-based education is and has been the best tool for retaining knowledge through experiencing it first-hand. For fun, she loves spending time with her grandchildren and gardening.

Office Address: 396 DeVos Building C

Phone: (616) 331-6440

Email: [email protected]


Mara Spears, Groundswell Program Specialist

Mara Spears graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies, a minor in Environmental Studies, and a Sustainable Food Systems Certificate. Mara has worked with kids for most of her life, and has been volunteering and working with students in the Grand Rapids area since 2016. Before joining Groundswell, she served as the Sustainability Coordinator for the Michigan State University Sustainability Office. She is thrilled to be working at her Alma Mater and investing her time and passion into West Michigan. She lives with her fiancé on the Grand Rapids West Side, with their two cats and a whole lot of plants.

Office Address: 354 DeVos Building C

Phone: (616) 331-6706

Email: [email protected]

Page last modified February 3, 2022