A Summer Poem

Poem Where You Pretend Like You’re at the Beach Reading It


I am a giraffe. I’m camouflaging with the tree, hiding from the enemies. I am a giraffe.

I am a chocolate cake, Oreos, Spanish, Mom and Dad, my sister,

spaghetti, balloons, flamingos, and playing tag with my little brother.

I am like my Grandma because everyone says we look the same.

She took care of me when my mom couldn’t.

My eyes look brown like my grandma and

the lines in our hands are the same.

I am doing Reading and Math. I am paying attention.

I always bring my book with me when I am done with all the things I have to do.

I take care of my parakeet. I am watching TV with my little brother because he’s sick.

I am like a lion. I eat a lot of meat and I run away.

I am sad because of my little brother.

I am a baby popping a bubble. My grandma said

she’s going to buy me something for my birthday.

I have brown eyes. I have shoes on. My hair is black

(my mom painted it blonde but it doesn’t show).

I look like a 3rd grader and a good student.


by Liba, 3rd grade

Casting Call for The Characters that Lived

Are you an actor itching to get involved with a community arts event held for a good cause? Well, today just might be your lucky day. The Creative Youth Center is hosting The Characters that Lived on Wednesday, October 26th at 7:00pm at Wealthy Theatre and we are looking to cast 1 male and 3 female actors/improvisers of color for a unique opportunity to give back to the Grand Rapids community.

As a participant in this annual fundraising performance, your role will be to interpret characters written into life by the CYC’s 3rd-5th grade Afterschool Adventure students. Since it’s an improv show, you’ll have to be comfortable leaving the rest up your fellow actors, the audience, and the phase of the moon.

There will be 3 rehearsals in downtown Grand Rapids and actors are required to attend at least 2. Oct 12, 18, 25. We also will be having a LaughFest show in March that actors will have an option of performing in.

Interested? Contact director Amy Gascon at gasconamy@gmail.com by Sep 30th.


In Her Own Words

We’re excited to present a blog post from a CYC Alumna–the first post of its kind. We hope to showcase more success stories as our writers graduate from high school and move on to new adventures. The CYC and its authors are growing up!

Raqhelle Millbrooks is 19 years old and an incoming Sophomore at the University of Memphis. She attended the weekly CYC tutoring program for three years during her attendance at the GRPS City High Middle School.

In Raqhelle’s words…

I have attended the CYC tutoring program since its early development in 2012. Before graduating high school I was able to meet a variety of people that tutored me in Math, Chemistry, ACT Testing, and scholarship writing.

The tutors were able to instill confidence in me when it came to being successful in some of my worst subjects. They were able to quickly access my strengths to tackle my weaknesses in the courses which further developed my confidence when it came to test day. I waited until my second semester in college to take my Pre-Calculus math course because of how hard it was to accomplish in high school. I ended the semester with an A because I realized my strengths in the same course I took in high school and was able to remember one of my tutor’s, Kevin’s, wise words and handy tricks to solving problems.

I made sure to share the CYC’s great tutoring program to a variety of my friends in high school, where they were also able to succeed in their courses. I will always appreciate the dedication and passion of the workers and volunteers at the CYC. They all take time out of their week to come together and help students thrive in their school work. Not only is the CYC a great atmosphere to get schoolwork done, but also a safe place to grow as a kid in elementary or high school.

Dear Future Me

There’s always an adventure on the horizon!

At the CYC, we prepare kids for life’s adventures by supporting their writing and amplifying their voices. Through participation in after school programs, students aged 6-18 become published authors and their work is celebrated in the community.

As the CYC looks ahead to a gift campaign in July to support the continuation and growth of its programming, you (yes, you!) can help us raise awareness about this unique opportunity for students.
We’re taking our inspiration from Alanna, a 5th grade student in her third year at the CYC. In the recently launched Bloom Cherry Bloom Tree: The Book of Explosions V, Alanna writes:

Dear future me,

You are smart, I know you are. You are funny too. I hope you become the first black woman president. If you didn’t, it is ok because everyone is not the best. Everything in the past is ok but I am scared of the future because it is in a long time. I hope I married a basketball player, but it is in the future so no one can tell. But I hope I only have two girls and two boys and adopt two more. Oh, and you and J. are still best friends for ever and ever.



As we look ahead together to the future of the CYC, would you be willing to create your own Dear Future Me note and post it to social media?

Tag the CYC on Facebook (GR Creative Youth Center), #DearFutureMe and ask your Facebook friends to post their own Dear Future Me note, too.

Who knows what the future has in store!

Seeking Board & Committee Members

The Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC) seeks new board members that will also serve on its Resource Development Committee. The CYC also seeks community members to serve on its Resource Development Committee without serving as full board members.

Top candidates for both roles will demonstrate notable experience in revenue development and/or business, and a passion for the CYC’s work and an ability to commit time and energy to furthering its mission. Individuals representing diverse backgrounds of all kinds are encouraged to apply.

General guidelines follow. Formal interviews will be held until the open positions are filled. Candidates interested in a committee role but not a board member position should see the sections on Fundraising and Qualifications and can expect to commit about 5 hours/month.


*     *     *     *     *


Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center

Member of the Board of Directors


The Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC) prepares kids for life’s adventures by supporting their writing and amplifying their voices.

The CYC provides a safe, imaginative space for children ages 6-18 to participate in writing workshops and out-of-school-time programming. Students develop their creativity, writing, and team building skills, grow in academic and personal confidence, and become published authors.


The board will support the work of the CYC and provide mission-based leadership and strategic governance. While day-to-day operations are led by the CYC’s executive director, the Board-ED relationship is a partnership, and the appropriate involvement of the board is both critical and expected. Specific board member responsibilities include:

Leadership, governance, and oversight

  • Serving as a trusted advisor to the ED as she develops and implements the CYC’s strategic plan
  • Reviewing outcomes and metrics created by the CYC for evaluating its impact, and regularly measuring its performance and effectiveness using those metrics; reviewing agenda and supporting materials prior to board and committee meetings
  • Approving the CYC’s annual budget, financial reviews, and material business decisions; being informed of, and meeting all, legal and fiduciary responsibilities
  • Contributing to an annual performance evaluation of the ED
  • Assisting the ED and board president in identifying and recruiting other board members
  • Partnering with the ED and other board members to ensure that board resolutions are carried out
  • Serving on committees or task forces and taking on special assignments
  • Representing the CYC to stakeholders; acting as an ambassador for the organization
  • Ensuring the CYC’s commitment to a diverse board and staff that reflects the communities the CYC serves


CYC board members will consider CYC a philanthropic priority and make annual gifts that reflect that priority. So that the CYC can credibly solicit contributions from foundations, organizations, and individuals, the CYC expects to have 100 percent of board members make an annual contribution that is commensurate with their capacity.

Board terms/participation

The CYC’s board members will serve a two-year term to be eligible for re-appointment for additional terms. Board meetings will be held monthly and committee meetings will be held in coordination with full board meetings.


Selected board members will demonstrate a passion for youth and the arts and a vision for building a vibrant and equitable community of creativity and learning. Members will have achieved leadership stature in business, government, philanthropy, or the nonprofit sector. Their accomplishments will allow them to attract other well-qualified, high-performing board members.

Ideal candidates will have the following qualifications:

  • Extensive professional experience with significant executive leadership accomplishments in business, government, philanthropy, or the nonprofit sector
  • A commitment to and understanding of the CYC’s beneficiaries, preferably based on experience
  • Savvy diplomatic skills and a natural affinity for cultivating relationships and persuading, convening, facilitating, and building consensus among diverse individuals
  • Personal qualities of integrity, credibility, and a passion for improving the lives of the CYC’s beneficiaries

Service on the CYC Board of Directors is without remuneration.

Individuals interested in meeting with a representative from the board to discuss involvement should contact board president Steven DePolo at (616) 331-6801 or depolos@gvsu.edu.

2016-2017 Internship

The CYC is excited to announce that we are currently accepting applications for our 2016-2017 internship. The position will remain open until filled. The final deadline for applicants is September 16, 2016, though we encourage interested folks to apply early.


Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center Internship


The mission of the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC) is to prepare kids for life’s adventures by supporting their writing and amplifying their voices. The CYC is located at 413 Eastern Ave., in the Baxter neighborhood and next to Calvin’s Peniel (Project Neighborhood) House. It runs several after-school programs for kids aged 6-18. At the CYC, kids become published authors, leading to a strong sense of identity and an enthusiasm for learning. Our programs are free for all students attending Grand Rapids Public Schools.


Basic Information

  • 2016-2017 internship working with youth and CYC staff members to support its mission
  • Geared toward liberal arts majors with strong writing and critical thinking skills
  • 10 hours per week, unpaid, with possibility of a minimal number of hours off-site
  • Supervisor: Brianne Carpenter, CYC Program Manager


Time Frame

  • Position open until filled. Final deadline for applications: September 16th, 2016
  • Start Date: TBD, second week of October 2016
  • End Date: TBD, April 2017


General Requirements

  • High level of professionalism
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Experience with, and strong interest in, publishing, editing, and design
  • Experience with, and strong interest in, marketing and creativity
  • Cultural competency
  • Sincere interest in the organization and its mission
  • Willingness to learn about the CYC and the greater context of its work
  • Self-motivated with ability to work independently within organizational culture


Possible Projects

  • Serving as Editorial Assistant for the CYC annual anthology, The Book of Explosions
  • Designing marketing materials
  • Serving as Editorial and Publishing Assistant for Wednesday Workshop Anthology
  • Organizing and managing the CYC poster design contest
  • Other opportunities as they arise


Interested students should send a resumé, cover letter, names of two references, and available weekday hours to Brianne Carpenter at brianne@creativeyouthcenter.org.

If selected as an applicant for the internship, the student intern and supervisor will meet in person to discuss project ideas, student goals and schedule, and to make certain the internship is a good fit for everyone.

Student authors + adult improv actors = 1 funny show (again!)


It’s the place where one goes to the beach at Rocky Mountain National Park, where people from opposite sides of the world swim in pools of jello, and where try as you might, it is near impossible to get to that coveted red velvet cupcake: on March 19 at 2 p.m. at the Dog Story Theatre, the Creative Youth Center (CYC) will host “The Sketches that Lived Encore.”

The CYC is the only creative-writing-focused organization in Grand Rapids, serving students ages 6-18—the CYC fulfills its mission of empowering students’ voices through creative writing workshops, tutoring, and afterschool programs. To learn about a day in CYC programming, click here, and to find out more about the CYC’s writing workshops, click here.

This is the second performance of “The Sketches that Lived,” a show based on and inspired by sketches written by the CYC students and performed by local adult actors during this year’s LaughFest. This free, all-ages performance will feature brand new material written by this year’s students.

Amy Gascon, the director of “The Sketches that Lived” and of the upcoming encore, speaks to the value of having adults perform the work of students. “I’m not sure if it hits them until they’re at the show with the lights and the audience and just this wonderful positive energy surrounding their work,” says Gascon.

While this positive energy comes from the audience and crowd, the actors play a large role in bringing these stories to life while highlighting the students’ voices.

Will Oltman, a returning actor from the first show, says “I am most excited to perform work written by students that is unencumbered by natural restraints that adulthood brings. I get to experience the creativity of youth once more.”

The creativity in youth encompasses a wide spectrum in stories—Gascon notes the variety in the stories the students told in their sketches.

For this performance, students have been working hard on their sketches. One student, Adrian, says the sketch writing process “was a little troubling at first and then it turned into a good time.”

While it might be a little tricky to write sketches, Lis Hatfield, another actor in the upcoming “Sketches,” says “Sketches can be short and silly – you want to try and make things larger than life and kids tend to be awesome at letting their imagination run wild.”

In preparation for the show, the students have learned about writing stage directions, creating setting, and writing dynamic characters. It suffices to say that the students are just as excited, if not more, than the actors.

Zoe, a student in the CYC’s Afterschool Adventure program, knows the thrill she will experience seeing her work performed. “My parents and grandma are so proud of me,” she says. “It is my chance to become a talented writer. This is my dream. And dreams really can come true.”

And the students at the CYC come into programming as talented writers: programming acts to share the vast talents of the students.

“I think the students really feel proud of what they’ve done,” says Gascon.

Some of these sketches will be published in the CYC’s upcoming anthology of the students’ work, The Book of Explosions. This will be the fifth edition, which highlights students flexing their creative muscles in sketch writing as well as other genres. The various books highlighting the students’ work will be available for purchase at the show.

Of the show, fifth grader India promises, “It will be fun and magical!”

Meet Brianne: Poet, Adventurer, & New CYC Program Manager



When I was in third grade, a description of the ocean I wrote in class got published in the tri-fold school newsletter. I’ll never forget the awe I felt when I saw what I’d written on notebook paper printed in black letters. I was a published author!

I am thrilled to be joining an organization that believes in kids’ voices and the power of writing and publishing. While completing my MFA in creative writing at Purdue University, I had the opportunity to teach multiple creative writing classes and to serve as an editor for a nationally distributed literary magazine. Before coming to Purdue, I helped develop the school gardening program at D.C. nonprofit Kid Power, Inc. I’m excited to draw on my teaching, publishing, and nonprofit experience, and I look forward to captaining many an expedition into the wilds of creativity.

Fellow Adventurers, let’s pack our bags with feather pens, silliness, mystery potions, curiosity, and empathy and see where our writing endeavors take us!

Interested in working at the CYC?


The Creative Youth Center is hiring! We are looking for a new program manager to join our team early in 2016. The program manager will be responsible for leading writing and creativity focused out of school time programs for youth ages 6-18. 

Position: 30 hours/week, year round, salaried position

Start Date: January 5, 2016

Requirements: Minimum Bachelor’s Degree, teaching experience, teaching certificate preferred, relevant experience with diverse populations, strong interest in and experience with creative writing

Salary: Commensurate with education & experience

Review: 3 months, 6 months, 1 year; yearly after first year of employment

Successful applicants will have training and experience in the area of teaching as well as experience and passion for working with diverse youth, and demonstrate:

  • the ability to captivate youth with the magic, possibility, and power of writing
  • a desire to empower youth through consistent, compassionate leadership
  • superb classroom management skills
  • a sense of silliness and adventure
  • the capacity to support youth in finding and developing their own voices, interests, and skills
  • the ability to follow and expand upon a writing-focused curriculum covering multiple genres and integrating revision and reflection into each lesson

Successful candidates will possess:

  • a passion for diversity, inclusion, and working with the community
  • strong organizational, multi-tasking, and prioritization skills
  • a love of writing, reading, and language and the ability to share this enthusiasm with students, stakeholders, and the community
  • exceptional written and oral communication skills
  • a positive, flexible attitude and a willingness to learn and grow
  • ability to work professionally and efficiently both individually and with a dynamic team

Program Manager tasks include:

  • Leading after school programming during the school year and summer programs as planned
  • Building on existing CYC curriculum to keep it fresh and relevant for students
  • Recruiting students
  • Building and maintaining relationships with families, schools, and the community
  • Recruiting, training, and engaging volunteers
  • Working with other CYC staff to build on existing structures and procedures for recruitment, communication, and classroom best practices
  • Facilitating the publishing process, including working with students to select and polish written work, overseeing publishing volunteers or interns, editing and proofreading manuscripts, and working with designers and publishers
  • Overseeing multiple methods of program evaluation
  • Entering and maintaining student and volunteer data
  • Developing writing workshop series featuring special sessions with visiting writers
  • Connecting with community partners, writers, artists, and others for collaborative projects, special guest visits, and field trips
  • Attending regular staff meetings
  • Participating in community events for recruitment and relationship building as appropriate
  • Coordinating yearly book launch and celebration
  • Other tasks as assigned

Email cover letters and resumes by Thursday, December 10, 2015 to Kristin Brace, Executive Director, at kristin@creativeyouthcenter.org.