Sue was nominated for this award by another tireless neighborhood advocate—Steffanie Rosalez, the Cook Arts Center’s Program Director. Steffanie’s nomination letter is a beautiful summary of Sue’s essential work in the community as well as a testament to their mutual respect and strong partnership. Here is that letter:
I am writing this letter to nominate my colleague, Sue Garza, for the Christine Nelson Professional Award. Through her work as Director of the Cook Library Center, Sue has been instrumental in providing a safe and welcoming space for youth and families in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood for almost ten years. Even more importantly, Sue has a passion for empowering and serving others, and that passion pushes her to go above and beyond just being an advocate for youth in her profession – she is a genuine force for equality and education in her everyday life.
Sue’s daily professional activities include an incredibly wide range of programs and services that allow children and families to have access to opportunities and education. She implements and directs the typical library services that you’d expect, but not in a way that a normal “librarian” would. When children and families come in and need access to resources, Sue will provide the typical services one might need (books, computers, help finding information), but then on top of that she allows families to utilize her as a resource. She is always willing to sit side by side with individuals to help them apply for jobs, learn to read, get their homework done, and in any way she possibly can help them reach their full potential.
Sue also oversees all of the Cook Library Center’s programs, including Cook Library Scholars, Cook Library Achievers, English as a Second Language (ESL) and literacy classes, Juego en Español (a program for families with young toddlers to speak in English and Spanish together), drop-in homework help, and more. Sue is at the helm, leading all of these programs that are designed to support youth and their families in a holistic and genuine way. Sue is the perfect leader for these programs, as she genuinely believes in the potential of every student and family and goes above and beyond her call of duty to support them in their needs.
As if that wasn’t enough, in her spare time Sue continues following her passion by volunteering for the Literacy Center of West Michigan and SLD Read tutoring adults and youth. She also serves on Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Parent University committee (a group that works to provide parents of GRPS students with tools and education to help their kids succeed in school), and she is a Parent Action Leader (PAL) at her sons’ school. One moment I experienced that was a true testament to Sue’s grassroots presence in the community was when, upon entering the room for a meeting, a man recognized Sue and said, “Oh! Hi Sue! I didn’t realize we were meeting with the Sue, who volunteered every morning at my son’s school giving rides to students in bad weather and making sure they got to school safely. It’s good to see you again!”
Thank you so much for considering Sue as a recipient for this award. I cannot imagine anyone who deserves it more than she does!
Sue Garza (right) and Steffanie Rosalez do great work on Grandville Avenue