Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Cook Library Scholars: World’s Finest Entrepreneurs!


By Allison Palm, GAAH Intern

When the teens in the Cook Library Scholars program heard that The Phantom of the Opera would be performed through Broadway Grand Rapids, they immediately wanted to see the show together.

The group, made up of 6th through 8th grade students, has been infatuated with the opera ever since seeing Tosca as a class.

“I just find the opera exciting in general—how people can sing like that and hold notes for so long,” Itzel chimed with awe.

“Operas are just very interesting,” Emmanuel said. “My favorite part is the dancing.”

The Scholars discovered that ticket prices for The Phantom of the Opera were quite pricey; however, they were not deterred. Instead of being discouraged, they decided to raise the ticket money themselves.

“Since we didn’t have enough funding, we thought of a way we could learn how to do business and learn to do things ourselves,” Itzel explained.

Miss Sujey, the teen program coordinator at the Cook Library Center, oversaw their business project and beamed as the students shared their excitement and sense of accomplishment.

They all groaned and laughed with despair. “How could you ask such an impossible question?” Bryant jeered.

By selling “World’s Finest Chocolate” to friends, family, and neighbors, the Scholars raised over $1,000—doubling their initial goal.

“It was an independent learning experience of how to do business, sell something, and make a profit,” Emmanuel added. “And besides the help from Miss Sujey and Miss Monica, we did it on our own. That feels really good.”

“I can’t wait to see the opera, hear the music, see the costumes…pretty much everything,” Itzel smiled.

“The suspense,” Angel said, eyes widening. “I can’t wait for the suspense.”

When asked if they would raise money again for another performance, they all echoed like a chorus with “yes!” The Scholars are already strategizing what they will sell next.

“If you could go to any arts experience in the world what would you choose?” I questioned. “Maybe a museum, a performance, an opera…and your ticket is free. What would you choose?”

Once Emmanuel offered his dream of seeing the Broadway musical Hamilton, they all celebrated in agreement.

“We’ll need to sell a lot of chocolate to get to see Hamilton on Broadway!” they joked.


The teens ended up raising enough money to enjoy dinner at the Olive Garden (their choice) prior to the performance. 

The Cook Library Scholars exemplify an inspiring amount of passion and curiosity for the arts. If it takes selling thousands of chocolate bars to get to a Broadway performance, there is no glimmer of doubt that these students would not only meet that goal, but would likely double it. That’s just the kind of determination they have.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cook Arts Center Students Shine!

It has been a busy time of year for the performing groups from the Cook Arts Center. We at GAAH value group performance for many reasons; our students develop confidence, share responsibility, and teach others about culture through the arts. Performing also enhances self esteem and teaches our children that their contributions have value, even if they don’t have the biggest role.

We want to celebrate and thank the local organizations and friends that have recognized and given many of our students a chance to shine and share their talents in our community. If you happen to catch an upcoming performance, you will not be disappointed.

The Cook Arts Center Grupo Folklorico



  • On April 15 the group performed for the ALSAME fundraising event.
  • This past Saturday, April 30, they danced at the Dia del Nino Community event held at Cesar E Chavez school.
  • On May 2 the dancers were a part of the Celebrate United Heart of West Michigan United Way event program.
  • May 5 will be a whirlwind day, celebrating Cinco de Mayo! The group has performances at the Cesar E Chavez annual luncheon at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and the Cinco de Mayo community celebration at Buchanan Elementary School.
  • You can also catch the dancers on June 11th at LINC’s Rock the Block Festival.


The Aerial Tactic Breakdance Crew






Girls Rock!Grand Rapids



  • Seven of the GR!GR bands performed on Saturday, April 2, for LadyfestGR
  • The Girls Rock Alumna Band (“Reckless”) performed again at Calvin College on April 21 for the Young Women’s Empowerment Forum.  
  • The Alumna Band will also be the main stage performance at the Kent County Youth Fair on Saturday, August 13. Prior to the event the girls have been invited promote the KCYF on WOOD TV 8.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Cook Library Scholars Discover the Magic of Robotics

If you come into the Cook Library Center on a Wednesday afternoon, you will find several students huddled together poring over the pieces of a future robot.

In January the Cook Library Scholars began a new robotics program for two hours each week. Helping to boost the students’ understanding of math and science concepts, this class focuses on something that appeals to all ages: putting together pieces that look like legos and and then seeing if the robotic contraptions work.

Andrew Abissi, a high school teacher at Innovation Central, is leading the class with focused lessons each week. Andrew has facilitated a partnership with GR Makers to generously loan the robotics materials for the Cook Library Scholars classes.

Abissi began the first session by asking the question, “If you could create any type of robot, what kind would you build?” A few of the scholars’ reactions included creating a robot to do homework or to shovel snow. The students have been hooked since that question was posed. Abissi creates an environment where the scholars are active participants in their learning and solve problems in a group. He states that "using robots as a tool is a natural fit for sparking children's interests while absorbing meaningful content."

“This program has so many benefits. Seeing the scholars work in teams, think outside the box, while strengthening their STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills is vitally important today and for the future,” said Sue Garza, Director of the Cook Library Center. “With this new robotics component our students are able to experience firsthand the joy of the STEM concepts in a new, engaging, and interactive way.”

The scholars have worked hard figuring out the concepts of cause and effect that program or move a robot. Since January the Cook Library Scholars have built their own robots in teams and have integrated them with tablets or phones to control their new contraptions.

Abissi expressed that he would like to see the scholars walk away from this class feeling confident in their problem solving skills and passionate to learn more about STEM. It is evident from the enthusiasm of the scholars that the robots have been more than a teacher - - they have been the catalyst for making STEM magic happen at the Cook Library Center.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Daring to Dream

Alejandro (Ale) has always been a dreamer. Ale currently is a very active and enthusiastic member of the Teen Leaders in the Arts program at the Cook Arts Center. Since fifth grade Ale has been coming to the Cook Arts Center after school for classes. It has been at the Cook Arts Center that Ale has grown as an artist and a leader with dreams of making an impact on the larger community.  A long-term aspiration of his has been to attend Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD). As a high school senior, Ale was not sure what steps to take to make his dream come to fruition.



Cook Arts Center Program Director Steffanie Rosalez recognized that Alejandro has passion and focus for attending KCAD. Over the past few months Steffanie worked closely with Kendall faculty and staff to help them see his potential and overcome any barriers that happened to be in his way.


Ale was thrilled to learn that he could be dual enrolled and able to participate in the 100 level drawing course at KCAD during his senior year of high school, and he will be receiving college credits upon completion of the class.


On a snowy January day, Ale walked a little apprehensively from Innovation Central High School to KCAD where his dream became a reality. Ale explained that being a part of a college class “made him really nervous,” but he feels so much gratitude for this opportunity. He smiled and humbly noted  that “the professor even stopped to look at my work, and she told me that she can see why I am here. It made me feel so proud.”



The professors are also working with Ale to build a strong portfolio and to create pieces that may help him secure future scholarships. His goal is to enroll at Kendall College of Art and Design as a freshman next school year. We look forward to seeing Ale's future dreams come true.

Monday, November 9, 2015

A FITTING TRIBUTE

Noemi Gonzalez, one of the Cook Arts Center’s Teen Leaders, will be awarded a special scholarship at the 2015 YWCA Tribute Awards Luncheon on November 17.  This year the Y’s selection committee was so overwhelmed with the number of high-quality nominees for the Judy Lloyd Student Leadership Award Scholarship that they created three additional scholarships in order to recognize a total of four high school students for their outstanding leadership qualities.

Noemi's leadership style at the Cook Arts Center has been crucial to building our teen program. Not only is she extremely mature, but she has the ability to think beyond herself and beyond the here and now. She's a "big picture" thinker and inspires our other teens to think critically about the big picture as well by asking relevant, thoughtful questions. Noemi’s consistent demeanor of calm and dedication helps keep the Teen Leaders’ conversations, meetings, and activities on track. If others lose focus, she gently reminds them to get back on task either verbally or by example. Noemi also leads by constantly asking questions and pursuing educational opportunities in every aspect of our programs. When she sees an opportunity to learn or to grow, she takes advantage of it. When she sees a chance to assist in making sure others have access to opportunities, she jumps on that with the same enthusiasm. 

Noemi is passionate about the need for equality in education. As a Mexican-American, she is well aware of the fifty percent high school graduation rate for Hispanics and “wishes that everyone would jump to action to make that statistic a thing of the past.” Noemi is interested in learning how government and policymaking work so that one day she can help bring about educational reform. In the meantime, she is in her senior year at Innovation Central High School (she has been on the honor roll all four years), is involved in a number of extracurricular activities, and is getting ready for college.

The future is bright for this exceptional young woman. Lead on, Noemi!