Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Spooky Scholars Receive a Halloween Treat!

On Halloween, the Library Scholars got a special treat from our friends at Calvin College. The students dressed up in their ghoulish, fantastic, or silly costumes and took a field trip to the college campus. There, our homework helpers from the Boer-Bennink dorm treated the Scholars and the Arts Center’s Press Club to a pizza feast! The kids ate to their hearts’ content, played games, and chilled out in true college fashion in the basement of the dorm.  

After that, it was time for trick-or-treating! For the festivities, we trekked across campus to the Knollcrest East apartments. Each Halloween, Knollcrest East hosts Light in the Night as a fun and safe way to trick-or-treat. It’s a tradition our kids look forward to every year. This year, we were wowed by amazing themed decorations in the apartments. We journeyed to Wonderland with Alice, rocketed into outer space, flew UP with Carl and Russell, and made mischief with the minions from Despicable Me. All of this excitement combined with loads of candy made it a night to remember! We appreciate our Calvin buddies so much, and we are so thankful for the opportunity to give our students positive experiences on college campuses. We can’t wait for next year!

Brandon, Brittany, Mary and Maynor pose in their ghoulish attire!

Fueling up for the trekk across campus! 
Miriam and Daniel wait for sweets with Evan 
Cook Library Scholars with our Calvin friends!
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Sonia Manzano Visits the Cook Library Center! 

On October 15th, we had the most wonderful pleasure of hosting Sonia Manzano, known for three decades as "Maria" on PBS's Sesame Street, at the Cook Library Center as a guest speaker. One of the first Hispanic Americans to appear on television, Mrs. Manzano has been honored by many organizations that include the Association of Hispanic Arts, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, and Hispanic Heritage Award for Education. She was also named by Latina Magazine in 2013 as one of the top 25 "Greatest Latino Role Models Ever." Her presentation included the importance of education, literacy and her experiences as a Latina writer, in addition to discussing family and heritage. The event was open to the public and coincided with Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th - October 15th). Mrs. Manzano recently wrote a new book titled “The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano,” which explores Latino heritage and civil rights in an accessible and historically poignant format. She read excerpts of the book to our students and also did book signings. This was especially exciting for our Cook Library Scholars students because they are currently reading her book! Having Mrs. Manzano as a guest in our community was a true honor and a wonderful, enriching experience for our students. 

Cook Library Scholars pose for a picture with Sonia! 

Listening intently to the presentation

Book signing!
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Cook Library Scholars: Literature, Community, and History Intersect!

On September 16th, 31 students from the Grandville Avenue neighborhood joined the inaugural class of Cook Library Scholars. This brand new project of GAAH, sponsored by grants from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the Steelcase Foundation, provides academic support, leadership education, and diverse enrichment opportunities to students in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood.  Thursday marked the end of our fourth week together! This week, our Scholars learned more about an exciting leadership opportunity through the CLS program.

In partnership with Grand Valley State University’s Kutsche Office of Local History, our Scholars will begin a multimedia project of documenting their neighborhood’s history. As part of this project, the students had the privilege of meeting José Jiménez on Thursday. In the late 1960s, Jiménez founded a Latino rights group in Chicago called the Young Lords. He told our students about why and how his group decided to advocate for the rights of Latinos in the United States. The Scholars were particularly interested in the Young Lords’ practice of cleaning up graffiti. One of our Scholars, Maynor, made a point of thanking José for his visit.

The Scholars have begun to read Sonia Manzano’s The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, a young adult historical fiction novel that depicts a young woman’s perception of the Young Lords movement in Spanish Harlem, New York City. On top of meeting José, the founder of that movement, our students will meet the book’s author on Tuesday, October 15. Ms. Manzano is most recognized for her role as Maria on the wildly popular children’s show Sesame Street. She will come to read to our kids and to discuss the importance of education. We are all so excited to meet her and invite you to join us!

We have been so grateful for our community’s participation in this project. Last week, our friend Ruth Tobar, the director of Plaza Comunitaria in Grand Rapids, read a selection from the novel to our kids as we all enjoyed the beautiful weather in Roosevelt Park. The afternoon was a fascinating intersection of literature, community, and history.

We are looking forward to diving deeper into this project with our Scholars. Stay tuned for more Cook Library Scholars updates!

Miriam, Estelita, and Yuri read The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano together.
José Jiménez shares his experiences with Maynor, a Cook Library Scholar.
Ruth Tobar reads to our kids on a sunny day in Roosevelt Park!
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Trendy Teen Activities

Teen Potter's Wheel, Mixed Media Madness, and Beats and Programming Electronic Music are some of this fall session's classes that are open to (and popular with!) our growing teenage population. Many of the classes here at the Arts Center have been geared towards children under 13 in the past, but our Program Director Steffanie Rosalez is working diligently to change that. She recognizes that we have several students here that are now entering into their teenage years - students that started coming to the Cook Arts Center when they were tiny, miniaturized versions of their maturing selves. For that reason, she's intentionally included 10 classes in this fall session's programming that accommodate teens all the way up until age 16. If you know a neighborhood teen that needs something to do after school, send them our way! We think that our teens are AMAZING and have really bright futures ahead of them. That being said, we're going to continue seeking ways to keep them involved at the Cook Arts Center for as long as we can!      

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

GR!GR is Rockin' our World! 

"Guitars in your face....girls on the bass..." those are a couple of lines from the Girls Rock Grand Rapid's camp theme song that only scratch the surface of how insanely our campers have been rockin' at the Cook Arts Center this week! Girls Rock! Grand Rapids is modeled after both national and international chapters of women who seek to empower girls ages 8-16 through music. What does that mean? It means that campers will be encouraged, learn "do it yourself" skills and have their self-esteem bolstered through one entire week of learning to play an instrument of their choice in a band setting. After a week of intensive instrument training, band practice and photo shoots (yes, photo shoots!) they'll be playing their grand finale rock concert at Wealthy Theater and recording their bands' music on Sunday. 

Come out and support our girls at Wealthy Theater on Saturday, August 24th at 3:00 P.M. There is no entrance fee but a donation ranging from $2-$100 is suggested. We're so thankful for all of our incredible sponsors, volunteers, and program staff who've made this camp a possibility for Grand Rapid's girls this summer. Hope to see you on Saturday! :) 


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Summer of Fun, Learning and Adventure! 

Things haven't slowed down a bit for us here at GAAH. In fact, we've been just as busy as ever with our summer programming! Time has been absolutely flying as we've joyfully spent our weekdays molding clay, conducting science experiments, learning how to eat healthily and reading our favorite books at both the Cook Library and Cook Arts Centers. Doesn't that sound like a week you'd just love to jump into? We've certainly been having a blast and learning lots, that's for sure! 

A highlight for us this summer has unanimously been our Friday field trips, as we've had the opportunity to explore some pretty incredible places here in town. Some of those places have included Grand Valley State University's Engineering Department on Pew Campus (as well as the Allendale campus swimming pool!), the GRAM, M-Live, and, most recently, our own Grandville Avenue neighborhood. We'll be heading to both GRCC and the Children's Museum this Friday and will be wrapping up with summer programming the week of the 12th. We've sure had a lot of fun and will be savoring these last two weeks!
Splish-splashin' in the pool at Grand Valley State's Allendale campus!

Cook Arts Center twins Rafael and Rosalbita being their adorable selves during snack time. 

Friends Alejandro, Jazmin and Jacqueline telling jokes while they mold their clay creations.

Sitting quietly during the beginning of our private tour of GVSU's Engineering Department - so cool! 
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts and Cook Library Centers.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dia del Sol Celebration 2013!

Student artwork, gourmet gastronomy, dance performances - those are only a few of the memorable components of this year’s annual fundraiser, Dia del Sol. If you've never been to Dia del Sol, it's a wonderful time that provides folks the opportunity to celebrate and support our work here in the Grandville Avenue community through a variety of means: a silent auction featuring artwork donated by local artists, direct purchasing of gift certificates to local entities and a selection of hand-made crafts (many of them created by our own community members!). Not only that, but there's delicious cuisine, a dance performance by one of the Cook Arts Center's dance troupes, and displays throughout the building where one can get an idea of what our programming is like at GAAH.

One of the ways in which this year’s event differed slightly from past years was that it featured artwork created by a select team of Cook Arts and Cook Library Center students who ranged in ages from 7-13. Their finished pieces looked amazing hanging in frames above bidder stands! Another memorable event was the unveiling of the Cook Arts Center's beautiful new mural that Pottery Studio Director Madeline Kaczmarczyk created. If you have any name suggestions for our mural, please let us know by giving us a call or emailing Bethany at A huge thank you to all of our sponsors and friends who came to celebrate with us for this year's Dia del Sol. For those of you who missed it, we hope to see you next year and thank you for your support in spirit!   

Who can refuse such mouth-watering, Italian-themed food?! We sure didn't!   

Student artwork on display.

Tah-dah! Our new mural is STUNNING and is located in the Cook Arts Center's Lobby. Check it out! 
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

End-of-School-Year Fun! 

This past week we were visited by K-5th graders from Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School. Ms. Sue gave them a tour of our library and read them a story. Afterwards, they had the opportunity to play in the library and read any book of their choice. What a fantastic-sounding visit!  

During the summer our library’s hours are Monday thru Friday 12:00-5:00 P.M. and on Saturdays from 12-4:00 P.M. As a part of our Summer Reading program, we’ll also be having something new and exciting called “Science Saturdays.” Science Saturdays will create opportunities for students to learn about and engage in simple, hands on experiments that one can produce at home using basic materials that will most likely be found in the kitchen! Not only that, but students will also be introduced to the terminology associated with the selected science experiments, hopefully fostering a greater understanding and enthusiasm for the discipline. Ooze, silly putty and color experimentation are just a few of the things that you can look forward to seeing and creating on Saturdays during our Science Saturday series. Science Saturdays will be held from 1-3:00 P.M. at our Cook Library Center during the following dates: July 13th, July 20th, July 27th, August 3rd and August 10th. We hope to see you there! 

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Two Exciting New Groups at the Cook Arts Center! 

The Cook Arts Center's very own Sarah Bruxvoort has been a very busy bee these past few weeks. Why, you ask? Apart from tending to the day-to-day needs of our students during program hours, occasionally helping Ms. Sue at our Library Center, and helping run the front desk, she's also been developing curriculum for two new and exciting groups that are taking place at the Cook Arts Center. Those groups are the Gardening Group, which was officially launched a couple of weeks ago, as well as a Girls Group, which is set to begin June 3rd. 

Gardening Group is an initiative geared specifically towards Cook Arts Center teenagers. As programming options wane the older these students get, we're hoping this group will serve as an engaging way for teens to stay involved with us. Sarah gave us a little insight into what she is hoping this group will instill in our teens, commenting that she desires that this group give our students "opportunities that develop responsibility and a sense of pride in a place - a beautiful place that they helped create with their own hands and hard work." Teens will be tending to our garden plots in the back of our building. They have plans to put tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cantaloupe, carrots, and cauliflower (affectionately nicknamed by our students "white trees") in the ground. All vegetables were selected by our teens and will hopefully bear many a fruit! 

Girls Group is set to be launched Monday, June 3rd and is open to any neighborhood girl who is currently in the 7th grade or higher. For Girls Group, Sarah is hoping to create a space that is "encouraging for teen girls to develop meaningful relationships, recognize their value, make healthy choices and fulfill their life goals." New topical discussions will take place each Monday the group meets. 

If you know of any teens that live in our neighborhood who are looking to get involved in something meaningful, please don't hesitate to let us know! :)   

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center.    

Friday, May 10, 2013

Connecting with our Kids

Two of our beloved Board Members, Tina B. and Jose R., have both shown an exemplary commitment to volunteerism within the organization that they help govern.  We know that time is tight when you have a full plate of responsibilities that demand your attention, and that sometimes there just isn't enough time left over for activities and altruistic endeavors that you would like to participate in.  Tina and Jose, however, have risen to the challenge of squeezing time into their extremely busy schedules to volunteer in house.  Both professionals in their respective fields, Board Members for GAAH and parents, they still find time to meaningfully connect with the neighborhood that they advocate for. 

Tina volunteers her time weekly to tutor one of our students in math, reading, and writing.  It's  heartwarming, to say the least, observing the two of them giggling while reading aloud together and practicing the pronunciation of unfamiliar words.  Tina is also a fantastic organizer - she was instrumental in helping plan GAAH's first volunteer Connect meeting.  Jose is also a joy to observe while he's interacting with our students.  Last week he volunteered his time to help engage some of them in the "Reading for Tacos" initiative that sought to give kids an incentive (free tacos from Tacos El Cunado!) for reading.  Aaliyah S., as you'll see in the photo below, was very focused on reading with Mr. Jose! :)

Thank you, Tina and Jose, for committing to engaging with our students!  

Tina B. reading to Ocean B. and Sandra G.

Jose R. helping Aaliyah S. earn some tacos!  
  Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thank you Thank you! 

Thank you, Rudi and Julie, for a great year at the Cook Library Center! Both Rudi and Julie served as our Community Partnership Coordinators (CPC's) and were instrumental in helping our students succeed this year. They helped coordinate a fabulous group of Calvin students from Boer-Bennink dorm - we have a partnership with that particular dorm that requires students who are living there and interested in volunteering to volunteer with us at GAAH. It's so great and we're so very thankful for our Calvin volunteers! We'll be wrapping up our school year collaboration with Calvin College this Friday with a field trip to the college. We're definitely excited to be eating in the cafeteria, visiting the dorms, touring the campus, and having fun!

Thanks again, Calvin volunteers, for all that you do for GAAH and the Grandville Avenue community! We look forward to the many fabulous years to come!

Hangin' out and havin' fun! 

Taking a moment during game time to get goofy. 

Rudi being sandwiched by two of our fun-loving students! 
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Library Center Volunteer Spotlight: Patti and Bob 

The Cook Library Center has many fantastic volunteers that choose to give their time for students who frequent the facility. Two volunteers in particular, Patti J. and Bob T., come in every week to spend time with them.  Patti has been volunteering at the Library for five years now (wow!) and has become our official “Quilt Lady.” She shares her love of quilt making with Library students by working alongside them to make quilts that are later auctioned off at GAAH’s annual fundraiser, Dia Del Sol.  Bob, on the other hand, is a rather recent addition (and a wonderful one!) to our volunteer team and has been with our Library Center for only a few months. He enjoys playing games with students such as chutes and ladders, chess, and clue; all of which are some of their favorites.

When asked about what they enjoy most about volunteering at the Cook Library Center, Patti and Bob both agreed that it’s the kids. They love the positive atmosphere and the great attitudes of the students that they spend time with. And oh, how our students love them!  Both volunteers’consistent presence and passions for working with youth have earned them recognition and adoration among Library Center students of all ages.  We’re so excited that both Patti and Bob said that they look forward to volunteering at the Cook Library Center for as long as they can. Thank you so much, Patti and Bob, for all that you do for GAAH, our students, and for our Grandville Avenue community! 

Bob T. helping one of our students with homework after school

Patti J. displaying her beautifully made quilt! 
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.
This blog was written by Justin Kamp, a current Calvin College student and guest blogger for Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities.

Monday, March 11, 2013

CAC Youth to Turn up Dance floor Heat

Cook Arts Center youth are turning their hats and throwing on baggy jeans for their weekly Breakdancing class. Four of our Breakdance students in particular have taken their love for breakdancing to the next level, having formed their own crew under the name “Aerial Tactic” with the help of their class instructor, Brian Urbane, and our Program Director, Steffanie Rosalez.  The crew has been officially approved for Cook Arts Center sponsorship and will be receiving many more opportunities to perform in the Grand Rapids community and beyond.  We’re all very excited!  

Aerial Tactic is comprised of five members that range between the ages of 10 and 13.  Their names, along with their “Bboy” (i.e. breakdance) names are as follows: Ignacio L. “Ignasty”, Edgar J. “Rezponce,” Antonio J.  “Swidt,” Carlos L. “Skrewlooze” and Noe R. This crew is extremely talented and managed to place in a sizable breakdancing tournament that was held in Kalamazoo during the weekend of February 9th. The crew took 18th out of nearly 100 teams in the Kalamazoo West Michigan University tournament - a major accomplishment!

But these boys don’t just work on their dance skills here at the arts center or during tournament times.  For them, breakdance is a very serious affair.  They all agreed that they breakdance as often as they can, whether that’s at school or in their room listening to their favorite Breakdance music by DJ Fleg.  I’ve witnessed personally that these boys love their breakdancing class more than anything; before I could finish saying goodbye to all of them, they smiled at me and sped off after saying a quick goodbye to go practice some more.

Aerial Tactic crew from left to right: Carlos L., Antonio J., Ignacio L., Edgar J. and Noe R.  

Lookin' good, boys!
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.
This blog was written by Justin Kamp, a current Calvin College student and guest blogger for Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Tutoring Program off to a Terrific Start

The Cook Arts Center offers a variety of great programs that help enrich the Grandville Avenue community. One of these positive programs offers free tutoring for students that live in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood. These tutoring sessions are held at the Cook Arts Center and seek to provide students with the opportunity to strengthen their academic abilities as well as build meaningful relationships with an adult. Individuals who express an interest in the tutoring program are matched up by the Cook Arts Center with a student who has requested extra help with homework. Tutoring sessions help students engage with their school material in ways that are fun and understandable, while providing them with encouragement from adults who are invested in them.  

I sat in on a tutoring session because I was excited to see this environment for myself. I sat in on a session lead by Mr. Andrew, a senior Writing major at Grand Valley State University, who was tutoring young Martin S. in writing. Mr. Andrew is an experienced writer and has done tutoring with the Creative Youth Center in the past. Did I mention that he’s also great with kids? Right away I was impressed with how Mr. Andrew was able to communicate and teach Martin new skills in writing. Martin was shy at first, but Mr. Andrew was easily able to relate to him. He and Martin were writing a story together in no time! I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the tutor, Mr. Andrew, and delighted to see the smile on Martin’s face as he finished his story and heard it read back to him by Mr. Andrew. There is no doubt that this tutoring program a great opportunity for kids to learn, grow, and have fun at the Cook Arts Center.

Any student living in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood is eligible to receive tutoring at the Cook Arts Center for FREE! Anyone interested in learning more about this new initiative please contact Bethany Sheffer at 

This blog was written by Justin Kamp, a current Calvin College student and guest blogger for Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Winter Break Camp Fun! 

As kids oftentimes tend to get bored after the first week of Christmas vacation, we thought we might break up their days a little bit by putting together a curriculum of dance and arts activities for Winter Break Camp 2013 at the Cook Arts Center. For two hours January 2nd - January 4th, we had a full camp roster that included 20 neighborhood students working on their break dance moves as well their arts abilities - so much fun! On the last day of camp, a Saturday, students were given the opportunity to escape the classrooms and explore the Grand Rapids Art Museum's Realism/Surrealism exhibit on a field trip. Students were also invited to partake in some post-tour arts activities and hot chocolate at the end of the day. They loved it! We loved seeing them engaging in meaningful activities, too, and were thankful for the GRAM's support as well as that of our beloved volunteers.  

A special thank you to all who helped make Winter Break Camp 2013 a success!

Jazmin B. and Magaly T. showin' off the beginnings of the splendid-looking projects!

Our students looking engaged during their tour at the GRAM
  Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.