Wednesday, September 17, 2014

GAAH Welcomes New Staff

After completing a successful first year of programming at the Cook Library Center, the Cook Library Scholars program has hired two new staff members to kick off the 2014-15 school year: Javier Cervantes and Sujey Garcia.

Javier, the CLS Program Manager, was born and raised in Grand Rapids. To say that he is familiar with the Grandville Avenue neighborhood is an understatement. He attended Buchanan Elementary, Burton Middle, and Central High School. His most recent employment was through the Recreation Reaps Rewards / YMCA LOOP program where he served Buchanan Elementary students for five years. In his career, he also worked with students at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary and Southwest Community Campus – both located within the Grandville Avenue neighborhood. Javier is pursuing an Associate’s degree in Child Development at Grand Rapids Community College.

When asked about his transition to GAAH, he said, “I am excited because I want to work with this great community. Plus, I know some of the kids already, so I'm excited to be working with them again.”

Javier’s favorite hobby is singing, though he also loves to dance, particularly in the styles of Cumbia, Bachata, and Merengue. His sister Vanessa is employed at the Cook Arts Center. He has a younger brother named Daniel.

Sujey, the CLS Youth Program Coordinator, was born in California, raised in Grand Rapids, and spent the last two years in Mexico. She also has past experience with neighborhood youth, including the Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth Steil Center where she provided homework assistance. Sujey also worked as an English tutor in Mexico where she prepared children for their move to the United States. She has her Associates in Business Administration from Grand Rapids Community College.

Sujey said, “I love working with children. I am most excited about getting to know them and working with their future development. I want to help get them to college. I know how hard it is coming from a low-income family, and on top of that, a different ethnicity. For them, going to college is hard. I want to give them the push that they need to succeed.”

Sujey enjoys listening to music, reading, and watching soap operas from around the world, particularly South Korea. She said, “I like them because they aren’t like the ones in the US. The ending is not the typical happily-ever-after ending.” She also tries to appreciate the small things in life. She said, “I used to live in Mexico where it was very hard, and everything was work, work, work. Now, I appreciate the small things, like the green grass and stopping to smell the flowers.” She has two sisters and a brother, and her favorite book is “The Hidden People of North Korea: Everyday Life in the Hermit Kingdom.”

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Meet Emily, GAAH's Super Star

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities has a new super star, and her name is Emily. Emily is a poster child for GAAH for a variety of reasons. First off, Emily has been a lead Believe 2 Become (B2B) student in our program for three years. [B2B is a collaborative partnership of hundreds of organizations and individuals who believe in the unlimited potential of Grand Rapids children, expecting them to succeed.] For two of those years, she was a participant at the Cook Library Center where she had perfect attendance. She was also a top reader among her class, learning how to read in English at the start of her participation three years ago.

This year, Emily again became a top reader and received a perfect attendance award at the Cook Arts Center. She has been described by the Cook Arts Center Program Director, Steffanie Rosalez, as an optimistic person who is always willing to help others. “She always takes initiative and is very kind,” Steffanie said. This fall Emily will be entering the third grade at Southwest Community Campus.

Emily was also a student in the 2014 Girls Rock! Grand Rapids (GR!GR) summer camp hosted by the Cook Arts Center. GR!GR is a group of women dedicated to empowering girls through music. The camp, in partnership with GAAH, is held every summer at the Cook Arts Center. In order to be enrolled in the program, Emily had to complete an essay which was accomplished with flying colors. One of the youngest of the campers, she was in a band named “Rainbow Dash” after the My Little Pony character. She helped write their song, “Rock that Dash,” and played the keyboard with confidence and skill. She also wrote a short piece as a side project titled “I Love Cake.”

Emily's entire family knows the value of education. Her mother, Rosa, has completed her sixth month of tutoring through the Literacy Center of West Michigan, and her twin brothers have been in the B2B program for the past three years as well. This family is certainly on the road to success.