Since the age of 12, Robert has sought to serve his community through his church, by local activism, and with nonprofit or governmental work.
Robert Van Kirk is a lifelong activist who has fought for his community by organizing and serving in a number of governmental and non-profit positions. He will be your fiercest advocate in Lansing and represent the interest of the poor and middle class, not the corporate elite, in the legislature.
Robert is a recent graduate of Michigan State University's School of Criminal Justice with a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice with Graduate Certificates in Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis, Critical Thinking for Intelligence Analysts, and Homeland Security. Before completing his Masters, Robert worked as a Loss Prevention Manager at a retail establishment in the Grand Rapids area and earned his Bachelor's Degree also in Criminal Justice with a Minor in Religious Studies from Michigan State University.
In Graduate School, Robert served the students of his department as their Union Steward in the Graduate Employees Union (AFT Local 6196) and as their Representative in the Council of Graduate Students (COGS). He served on numerous committees as part of COGS including the Police Oversight Committee that he championed from inactivity to regular oversight meetings exercising our legal responsibilities of supervision of the police department on campus; the Health Care Subcommittee that he chaired which addressed the health care crisis graduate students faced when the university attempted to shift a greater share of student health care costs onto the backs of students who could least afford it; and the Constitution and Bylaws Committee where he instituted structural reforms to the organization to make COGS more democratic, participatory, and representative of the student body at the university.
During undergrad, Robert was elected to the Associated Students of Michigan State University where he served as the voice of the Campus Interfaith Council. The highlight of his service was his negotiations with the university administration on funding related to a complete freeze of our student accounts which brought the government to a halt. It also affected a major diversity event that was to take place, planned by the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students and the Council of Progressive Students. Robert served as one of a team of negotiators that resolved the budgetary crisis and allowed the event to take place.
Also while an undergrad at MSU, Robert co-created the Gay Christian Fellowship, later Q-CROSS MSU; a campus ministry dedicated to serving the unique needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Christian students at the university. Events included educational activities and speakers who educated the ministry and the campus community on the intersection of Christianity and the LGBTQ community: principally that you could be LGBTQ and Christian. Activities also included worship opportunities for students on campus . Q-CROSS MSU is still going strong to this day, thanks in large part to the dedicated ministry of their chaplain.
High School Activism
While in High School, Robert created the LGBT Community Coalition of Michigan, a non-profit (501c3) dedicated to enabling a safe prom experience for everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation and which was comprised of representatives from area Gay Straight Alliances. With the generous support of a Certified Public Accountant interested in the cause, Robert fund raised over $12,000 over a period of two years and put on proms first at the Lansing Center, and then the Grand Ledge Opera House with over 300 students in attendance in total over the two years.
From middle into his high school Robert served on the Ingham County Youth Commission, an advisory board to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners on issues affecting young people in the county. Robert served as Public Relations Reporter, Vice President, and finally President of the Commission. In that capacity, he served as Co-Chair of the Mayor's Conference on Race and Diversity Conference Planning Committee which was a major diversity conference in the Lansing area put on for area middle and high schools.
Robert is running to be your voice from Wyoming and Byron Center because he comes from a solidly middle class background and lives the struggles faced by the majority of Michiganders and Americans who the economic recovery never touched as well as having fought continuously for his community since a very young age because of the values instilled in him from his Mother: values that included defending those that cannot defend themselves, sticking up for the little guy, and speaking truth to power. His mom raised him, with the help of her parents, after his biological father abused her after he was born. When the system didn't help protect her, she fought his birth father in court through personal protection orders and court appointed visitation with a therapist, while doing everything she could to shield him from the violence of his father.
Robert spent most of his formative years living with his mom, grandma, and grandpa where they scraped and sacrificed to make sure that he received a good public education, clothes on his back, and opportunities for after school activities that included volunteering for his community. Robert was raised with the spirit of community service etched into his bones: whether it was his grandma's tireless service in their church's kitchen, his mom's protests to improve the neighborhood he grew up in against corporate developers, or any of many instances where Robert witnessed directly the value of helping others and the intersectionality of our struggles against those who hold all the power.
Robert was raised as a Congregationalist but converted to the Episcopal Church in his undergraduate years. He has been active in his parish and campus ministry, even participating in a mission trip to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. In his spare time Robert weight trains to stay physically fit and enjoys playing video games and strategy board games while also spending quality time with his partner Mike Johnson.
Robert currently serves as Parliamentarian of the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party as well as the Membership Director of the Young Democrats of Michigan. He is also active with his local Progressive Caucus in Kent County and the Grand Rapids United Progressives, a group of activists committed to bettering their community.
Robert's ACHIEVEMENTs And Background
- Served on the Ingham County Youth Commission for 6 years as Public Relations Reporter, Vice President, and President
- Co-Chair of the Mayor's Conference on Race and Diversity, Lansing
- President of the LGBT Community Coalition of Michigan which created a safe prom experience for all young people in the state regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity
- Represented the undergraduate student government of Michigan State University on behalf of the Campus Interfaith Council in negotiations with administration over a funding crisis
- Active in Canterbury MSU, the Episcopal student ministry at Michigan State University
- Served as the Departmental Representative for Criminal Justice to the Council of Graduate Students
- Chair of the Ad-Hoc healthcare committee in response to the university administration's plan to drastically increase the out of pocket expenses for student health care
- Responsible for government reform efforts to make the student government accountable to the students it was designed to serve
- Revitalized the MSU Police Department state mandated Citizen Oversight Board, which had not met in 7 years, designed to provide citizen led review of the campus police department which specifically investigated police treatment of racial minority groups on campus
- Elected Vice President of Student Affairs of COGS
- Parliamentarian of the Progressive Caucus of the Michigan Democratic Party
- Membership Director of the Young Democrats of Michigan
- President of Stonewall for Revolution: Michigan, a grassroots LGBTQ political advocacy group dedicated to speaking truth to power and representing the interests of gender and sexual minorities politically