Rev. John Matias Secetary of the Board
141 Auburn St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Term Expires: December 31, 2014
Rev. John Matias was born and raised in the inner city of Chicago, the 15th of 16 children born to first generation Puerto Rican parents. His first language was Spanish and his parents had an elementary school education but taught their children a strong work ethic and the value of education. He attended Chicago public schools, graduating from Roberto Clemente High School in Humboldt Park. He studied at Northeastern Illinois University, earned an Associate’s Degree from Kennedy-King College, and completed the yearlong Seminary Consortium for Urban Pastoral Education (SCUPE) program before going on to earn a BA equivalent from Calvin College, an MA in Ministry from Calvin Theological Seminary and an MA in Community Counseling from Western Michigan University.
Rev. Matias was ordained as a minister by Spirit and Truth Fellowship in Chicago, Illinois in 1984 and in 1992 was ordained as a licensed minister of the Christian Reformed Church of North America.
Shaped by his early experiences, Rev. Matias became passionate about removing barriers to educational success, social justice, and grassroots leadership development in the urban context. He worked for over 10 years in community development in Chicago through social work, church planting and pastoring as well as assisting with the development of Humboldt Community Christian School. He went on to serve as a pastor in El Paso, Texas for over 5 years during which time he helped form Vision El Paso, an active ecumenical coalition of nearly 100 pastors. In 1997 John moved to Grand Rapids to take the position of Assistant Director for Multicultural Admissions and Community Relations at Calvin College where he served for 5 years. This role included a comprehensive strategy for both college preparedness and recruitment of minority students nationally as well as addressing cultural competency among faculty and staff of the college. In addition, Rev. Matias served on Calvin’s Comprehensive Plan Committee. Through his experiences traveling and addressing education nationally, Rev. Matias became acutely aware of the gaps in education in urban settings across the country, gaps he personally experienced growing up. This spurred his completion of a second Master’s Degree in Community Counseling and subsequent work in the public school setting in Grand Rapids as a bilingual at-risk and guidance counselor at Union High School, and a home based family therapist for Arbor Circle. He continues to work for Arbor Circle as a Kent Schools Services Network (KSSN) Coordinator at Burton Elementary and Middle School where his role is to develop community partnerships to remove barriers to educational success and address mental health needs.
In addition to Rev. Matias’ professional roles in education, he has participated in a wide variety of collaborative community efforts to address education, social justice, and community development. These include the Delta Strategy of West Michigan (Empowering Latino Community Initiative), GRPS High School Redesign Team, Believe to Become Community Initiative, Latino Resiliency Project, and active participation in the Latino Community Coalition for the past 7 years. He has also served as a board member of the Synodical Youth Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, vice-president of the board of Youth Unlimited, secretary of the board of The Potters House Christian School, and currently as a member of the board of Network 180. John also served as Spiritual Life Director for Youth Unlimited’s project site in Mexico for 6 years, and was one of the two founding pastors of City Hope Ministries in Grand Rapids where he served as assistant pastor for 5 years, and continues to speak for a variety of urban youth programs. He currently attends Take Hold Church in the Heartside community.
Rev. Matias and his wife, Sarah, have been married for 25 years and have 4 children, Sophia, Gabriella, Isabella, and Johnny. They have lived in Grand Rapids for 16 years and began their children’s education at The Potter’s House Christian School but transitioned into the public school system because of their commitment to community involvement and the variety of opportunities in the public schools. Their children have attended Grand Rapids Montessori, Zoo School, Union High School and City High/Middle School, participated in sports at Creston, Union, and Central and Sophia completed 4 years of JROTC. Sophia and Gabriella are graduates of City High and Isabella and Johnny currently attend City High.
Rev. Matias currently serves as a member of the Board of Education’s Finance Committee.