Its 4:10pm and the entrance room to the Cook Arts Center is quiet; the calm before the storm. Noemi Ashley, the receptionist, glances at the clock and gets a hint of excitement in her eyes. Although she had been involved with GAAH for several years, she always eagerly anticipates the students’ arrival after school. The door bursts open and a swirl of students, leaves & autumn air fill the small entrance. Noemi exhibits a calm poise as she asks the students about their day and gets them signed in. Originally from the Dominican Republic, Noemi loves the family atmosphere at the center and especially enjoys working with the large Latino population. “The center really does make a change” she explains, “The classes help students build confidence which helps for their future.” Noemi remembers going to a community center growing up and says it had a positive impact on her life. There truly is a supporting community at GAAH and Noemi is just one of the important individuals who make it an enriching space. Executive Director Marjorie Kuipers says, “Noemi treats everyone with love & respect. She is patient and has the ability to juggle a variety of tasks.” In addition to the numerous tasks Noemi gracefully accomplishes at work, she is also pursuing an occupational therapy degree (full time!) at GVSU.
Cook Arts Center: Not Just For Kids Enthusiastic students pour into the Cook Arts Center & Cook Library Center everyday to strengthen their academic skills and embark on creative ventures. GAAH however, is not just for kids. On Tuesday nights, neighborhood members & people from greater Grand Rapids come together to stretch out their interest in yoga. Meryn McClelland, certified yoga instructor, leads the class with valuable cross-cultural competency. Around 7:45pm a comforting harmonic sound can be heard through the walls as yoga participants sing a traditional mantra that signifies love and community. Meryn is one of our many dedicated volunteers who make GAAH special. In addition to the community yoga class, adults have also requested their own piano class. Volunteer Katherine Thelen graciously teaches a kids art class during the piano class so that parents do not need to worry about childcare.
New Faces: Eva Jenson recently joined GAAH staff as our new multicultural & bilingual Outreach Coordinator. She says, “GAAH is so important to everyone involved. Staff members enjoy being here just as much as class participants. I hope to create even more opportunities for people to come celebrate culture and community.” Eva received a warm welcome and looks forward to exciting future endeavors.