Thursday, August 21, 2014

Teen Leaders Have a Say in Park Re-Design

In the neighborhood where they attend school, live and play, on August 6 three groups of teens in GAAH’s teen leadership program presented their ideas to the Parks Advisory Committee for making Roosevelt Park more accessible to the community. They identified three areas of concern:

The first group pointed out the lack of places to escape from the summer heat, both in the park and the neighborhood. They proposed building an indoor pool in the clubhouse. The pool would feature slides, life guards, and other amenities. The philosophy behind their proposal was that the pool would not only provide an attraction for people in the neighborhood, but it would promote diversity by creating a welcoming, safe place for families from other neighborhoods.

The second group identified the lack of restrooms and drinking fountains. Without these basic necessities, visitors are forced to leave to use the restroom or get access to water. This causes accidents, dehydration, and an overall unpleasant experience. The group presented ideas for convenient and well-placed drinking fountains and restrooms.

The third group addressed the safety of the park, particularly near Plaster Creek. They pointed out that the creek is polluted, the stairs are broken, jagged rocks and broken glass are strewn on the walking path, there are no lights in the park, and the steep incline without a fence makes it dangerous to walk to the creek. They proposed having volunteers pick up the area, build trash cans, create fences around the river, repair the steps, create a safe path, install a fence on steep hill, and installing lighting.

A common theme for all three groups was the lack of attractions that make the park a desirable place to visit. Alejandro proposed a mural to make the entryway of the park more visible which included the Mexican and American flag, President Obama and Cesar Chavez, and a globe to symbolize the planet we share.

Steve Faber, Executive Director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, reported that the presentation made a powerful impact on the Parks Advisory Committee. Several members mentioned that this was the best advisory meeting they have ever attended, and they invited our students to serve on the neighborhood planning committee and to work with the landscape architect once that phase of the plan begins. 

This initiative is part of a comprehensive GAAH program that prepares teens for future leadership positions in the community.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Teens Work at GAAH for the Summer

“Miss Steffanie, I know this might be a stupid question, but… how do I get the money from this?”

This serious and revealing question was asked by a teen after he was handed his first paycheck ever from the Program Director of the Cook Arts Center. It became clear that not only was he working at his very first job, but he also had never seen anyone cash a check, nor been taught how to do so. Because of this gap in the necessary knowledge that it takes to succeed in the workforce, the experience at Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities (GAAH) is a significant one for him and his peers, for it may give them a leg up in preparation for a fiercely competitive job market.

Each summer, GAAH is providing the opportunity for teens to get worthwhile, enriching, meaningful job experience while at the same time helping the Grandville Avenue neighborhood. This summer at the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center, 24 teen staff and volunteers are working directly with artists and instructors to ensure a safe and fun learning environment for the elementary school students who are attending.

GAAH works with a number of agencies to provide job opportunities for neighborhood teens, including the Project Cool program, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, and Steepletown. The Cook Arts Center’s Leaders in the Arts program also has engaged teens at both facilities. Each day, the teens are challenged to take initiative, enhancing their sense of responsibility, leadership, and work ethic. In addition to their hard work, teens are also asked to perform normal job duties such as keeping regular hours, filling out time cards, and behaving in a professional manner.

Program Director Steffanie Rosalez said, “It’s so exciting to see teens from our neighborhood growing and engaging with their community in this way. We have some truly outstanding youth in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood, and we are providing special opportunities for them!”

Library Director Sue Garza said, "We have a great crew of teens that are great role models to our students. They are invaluable."