This was the explanation that Jeffrey VanHove, the Cook Arts Center’s newest volunteer, gave when he was asked why he chose to give his time to GAAH. His volunteer work in the animal drawing class does not fill any credit requirement. Instead, he is choosing to spend his afternoons and evenings with the youth in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood because of his passion for helping kids.
“I chose animal drawing specifically because it included ages 5-9 and I wanted to work with kids in the fourth grade age range,” he explained. “For my first experience, I was a little nervous. I always am when I walk into a class of kids I've never met before. I just wonder if they are going to like me. Even though I immerse myself in things, I am a little shy,” Jeffrey said. “But I definitely think I made an impression. When I walked in, I was wearing this big safari-looking hat. I immediately earned the reputation of being a cowboy and all the kids were all calling me a cowboy. So I made a little cowboy move and they all laughed. That was my first connection.”
Jeffrey then started making friends with the students in the class. “I started asking them some questions, talking to them about their classes. The girl across from me told me about piano classes which I thought was really cool because I've always wanted to learn piano. When I got up to go meet the other kids, they were like, ‘No, don’t go!’”
To assist the art instructor, Jeffrey helped the students trace rabbits and draw animals. “Two other volunteers were helping out, but I noticed that they were walking around asking kids if they needed help drawing. I wanted to actually draw myself, so I drew this ridiculous camel,” Jeffrey explained. “[The students] had a lot of energy so I was trying to play games with them to get them engaged. I even started a horse drawing competition.”
Jeffrey, a freshman at Grand Valley State University, comes from Boyne City near Boyne Mountain. Growing up, he attended East Jordan Schools, Bell Air Schools, and then graduated from Boyne City High School. His interests include longboarding, skiing, and working with kids. He has also volunteered to help with the Warrior Dash and the Forest of Fear at GVSU and plans to do more volunteer work, including at the Cook Library Center.
“I found out that I loved kids when I started working as a teacher's assistant my senior year of high school. I helped out two fourth grade teachers with math, science, and PowerPoints and had a great time. I never knew how much I would miss it until it was gone,” he said. “One of the really cool things about being a teacher’s assistant and helping kids with academics and schoolwork is that you are helping them become more successful.”
He discovered the Cook Arts Center through a friend who volunteers in a pottery class. Once she explained the organization to him, Jeffrey thought it sounded like a perfect way to be involved with the community and work with kids. “The classes just looked awesome,” Jeffrey said. ”I was really excited about breakdance and guitar so I just really wanted to get involved.”
Jeffrey summed up his experience this way: “I had an awesome time at the Cook Arts Center. The classroom was great, everyone was really nice, and I left with a really good impression. I walked out of the building with a smile on my face.”