Friday, February 20, 2015

Meet Maria, Proud Parent of Aspiring Performer

Maria is the proud mother of two daughters, Carina and Ariel. Although Carina is too young to participate in the programs at the Cook Arts Center, her sister Ariel, pictured below, is very involved. After living in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood for several years, Maria has reached out to the staff at the Cook Arts Center to let us know how happy she is with our programs and services.

“Ariel has been through a lot in her little lifetime, and the Cook Arts Center makes her feel like she is doing something. The classes make her feel special and worthy. Those are important things to know as a child,” Maria said. “When I was young I felt like what I did didn’t matter, but Ariel looks forward to every day here. It pushes her to do better in everything she does.” 

Ariel, a 7-year-old who attends Bursley Elementary School in Jenison, falls in the 85th percentile in school. Although she succeeds academically, her true passion lies in the arts, especially singing, acting, and dancing. At the Cook Arts Center, she attends piano, animal drawing, hip hop, and pottery classes.  She told her mom, “I don’t want to be a trash picker or someone who works at a desk all day long. Instead, I want to be a dancer and a performer for my career.”

Maria, who is from Texas, moved around a lot with her parents, who were migrant farm workers. She attended a variety of Grand Rapids Public Schools including Franklin, Hall, and Burton. She also attended GRCC but then became pregnant with her second daughter, Carina. Although Maria needed to take time off to raise her infant, she plans to go back to college.

For fun, the family enjoys attending Grand Rapids First Church, going to the movies, and attending ArtPrize. Their favorite activity when it’s warm is going to Grand Haven to walk on the pier. Maria plans to include Ariel in drop-in programs at the Cook Library Center this summer and looks forward to continuing her relationship with the staff at the Cook Arts Center.

 “I tell Ariel that we must try hard in everything we do. We can’t just show up,” Maria said. “That way, at the end of the day, we can say we tried our best.”

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mary T., Avid Reader and Committee Member

Mary is a bright, unique fourth grader at Cesar Chavez elementary school. This ten-year-old’s favorite subjects are music, gym, and reading. Mary and her three siblings, who are ages four, six, and twelve, celebrate diversity in their family. Her mom, now a social worker, is originally from Africa. Mary’s step-father, who is from Guatemala, is an auto technician in Grand Rapids.

Mary started coming to the Cook Library Center two years ago when she was in second grade. She thoroughly enjoys the myriad of activities offered here, including creative art activities and classes that expand her understanding of science. One of her favorite things about the Library is the field trips. She fondly recalls going to Calvin College for trick-or-treating in the dorms for Halloween.

Mary is also involved with the Cook Library Center D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) Group. In addition to the normal quilt-making activities that the students partake in leading up to Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities’ annual fundraiser, Día del Sol, this special children’s committee has been planning and creating additional items to auction off at the big event. As an integral part of this committee, Mary is responsible for making important decisions about what crafts to make and how to make them. Then, she and the rest of the committee bring their ideas to life.

One part of the craft required a field trip to Richmond Stamp Works in downtown Grand Rapids, where Mary and her team met owner and creative genius, Paul Newhof. While there, Paul showed them his unique work space and also the process of making rubber stamps. The kids particularly enjoyed the shop dog, seeing the stamp-making machine at work, and the candy that Paul so kindly shared as they departed.

In addition to the interactions that students at the Cook Library Center have with leaders, artists, and authors from the community, college students from Calvin College, GVSU, and GRCC often volunteer to tutor, help with homework, and lead  reading activities. Mary said that these students have helped her immensely with her homework, her reading comprehension, and her critical thinking.

Outside of school, Mary enjoys spending time with her friends. She enjoys having singing contests, building snowmen, playing with toy horses, watching SpongeBob SquarePants, playing with the family dogs, creating fake tattoos, reading comic books, and waking up her mother. Her favorite author is Dr. Seuss. When Mary grows up, she hopes to be famous stylist and actress.